Yesterday morning I went to the 37th Annual Seattle Pride Parade. Having never been to a pride parade before, I wasn’t sure what to expect… well, I had an idea, of course, but I was curious as to how close to reality it would be. So I took my camera and headed downtown in the direction of the rainbows.
After the first hour, I almost left. Not ’cause I was offended, mind you. Well, okay, I was offended, but it was because almost every single group in the parade was just a bunch of people in matching corporate T-shirts walking down the road, surrounding a car or mascot festooned with the corporate logo and handing out literature or coupons or goodies.
So while I’d like to acknowledge BECU, Esurance, Group Health, Microsoft, Verizon, Expedia, Macy’s, Fuze, Amazon, Orbitz, Alaska Air, Starbucks, Best Buy, Chipotle, Cupcake Royale, various radio stations and car dealerships, and anybody else I missed for their support of a good cause, I do have to ask: did y’all have to be frontloaded at the start of the parade? If it weren’t for the lesbian bikers who led the way, I’d have thought I missed the Pride Parade and stumbled onto the Corporate Advertising Parade.
I realize that parades need to paid for, and it’s great that so many corporations are willing to attach their names and their logos and their money to a cause once considered taboo. Equality is becoming mainstream, and that’s great! It’s just that I felt like I was exposed to enough advertising to make up for several months of not watching TV. I mean, holy Oscar Mayer® ham sandwich with Wonderbread® and Hellman’s Mayonnaise®, Batman©.
But I’m glad I stuck around, because the next two and a half hours more than made up for the first. It had its share of drag queens and raunchiness (which matched my expectations), but it also had chorus groups, and community and activist organizations, and dance troops, and sports teams, and drum bands, and even, to my surprise, churches. Despite the fact that I’m not religious, I grew up mostly as a Lutheran, and was proud of the number of Lutheran churches marching in the parade. So Central Lutheran Church, Immanuel Lutheran Church, and Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, among several others, I give you guys props. It’d be nice if y’all could get your more conservative compatriots on board, too.
The parade lasted for a solid three hours, and by the time it was done I was ready to leave– not because the parade was bad, far from it. But after several hours on my feet, I really just wanted to sit down somewhere, rest my legs, and get something to eat. Judging from how the crowds began to thin well before the end of the parade, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. And I felt kind of bad for the groups at the end of the parade. While there was still plenty of crowd left, I couldn’t help but feel like those groups got shafted a bit. Maybe if the number of corporate marchers had been cut by, say, 50%, the parade would have been a more reasonable length? I hate to armchair quarterback. I’m just sayin’.
I also had a bit of an epiphany while watching the parade. Now, I’m not gay, and I don’t plan to get gay-married or civil-unionized at any point in the future. I support marriage equality and gay rights because it’s the right thing to do; because gay people in love deserve all of the same rights and legal protections and official support networks that straight people in love do. Gay people deserve to be accepted and loved for who they are, just like everybody else. And therein lies the root of my epiphany. I’m not just supporting gay rights for the sake of gay people; I’m supporting them for the sake of everybody. Because gender orientation aside, gay rights is ultimately the cause of allowing people to live their lives however they want, as long as they aren’t hurting anybody. And if I have some political creed at the root of my being, that is it. People deserve to live their lives the way they see fit, and gay marriage is an important step in letting that happen.
From my point of view, gay marriage is just one aspect of a wider change in society. It used to be that people let their identities and their lives be dictated to them by custom, by societal pressures, by religion. But more and more, I see people determining their identities and their lives for themselves, living life the way they want, determining their values not because it’s what they grew up with or it’s what society has pressured them into, but because it’s what they want and what they believe and who they are.
Whether you’re gay or straight or somewhere in between, that’s something you should be able to support. And if you’ve found your way in life, if you’ve found that niche that makes you happy, if you’re accepted for who you are and you accept others for who they are, then regardless of your gender or your religion or your sexual orientation, you absolutely deserve to be proud.