Here’s to a beautiful flag

 

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The Pride parade in Chicago was–and still is–an event I look forward to each year, because people can come together to celebrate who they are, whatever that is. The rainbow flag captures that idea, so much so that whenever a person sees the flag, they instantly know what it stands for. I can’t imagine how good that must have made Gilbert Baker feel. Long may it wave.

One Proud Nation

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I’m heartbroken over the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It’s a guns problem, for certain, because not a single person deserves the right to take 49 lives in an instant. Banning assault weapons makes perfect sense to me. Keep some guns if you want to, but don’t put that kind of firepower in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to control themselves.

It’s also a hatred problem, too. The shooter targeted people whose lifestyle he didn’t agree with. If there is a hell, hopefully he’s in it. But either way, dozens are dead, and millions are crushed and angry at the same time. And moments of silence must not become a token gesture, or a cover for a Congress that won’t change a damn thing, no matter how many lives are lost.

When I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, gay people were hidden deep in the closet. They were a curiosity, a punchline, and something to be afraid of, because of course they wanted to make everybody else gay, too. But then I went to college in the late 1980s, as the AIDS epidemic was raging. I began to realize that even though being gay wasn’t my thing, it didn’t pose any threats to me, either.

I moved into Chicago in the early 1990s, and found the Gay Pride Parade, as it was known back then, to be the highlight of the summer. People came from far and wide to line Broadway, soak up the sunshine, and have a good time together. For as long as I lived in Lakeview and what later became known as Boystown, it was the summer event I looked forward to all year long.

It’s amazing that society–at least the part I want to be a part of–has moved to gay rights acceptance so quickly. But on the other hand, maybe it’s a shame that it didn’t happen sooner than it did. But it has happened, and people can live their lives openly and marry the person they love, regardless of what gender they are.

And that bothers some people, clearly. But those people are being pushed to the fringes, on their way–hopefully–to ultimate extinction. The person I got into a shouting match with across Diversey Avenue more than a decade ago, about whether bringing my young children to the Pride Parade (as it was known by then) was a sin, has hopefully moderated his position since then. But if not, he’s quickly becoming outnumbered in society, as he deserves to be.

I haven’t been to the Pride parade in many years, because I don’t live in the neighborhood anymore, and because fighting the crowds–routinely estimated at over a million people each year–seems like a hassle. But this year, in light of the Orlando shooting, I feel as if I have to go.

Pride started out as something organic within the gay community, but it’s since grown far beyond that. And the millions who will line Broadway Avenue again in ten days’ time will serve as a beautiful testament to our capacity for celebrating ourselves and having a good time in the process.

About the guy in the gold top hat above: I’m not sure why I took his picture a long time ago, but my daughters and I have affectionately referred to him over the years as “Captain Buttcheeks.” I couldn’t quite bring myself to devote an entire post to him, but I definitely wanted to share him with the world. Wherever he is today, I hope he’s still rocking the boots with the top hat, and waving at everyone he meets.

Pride and Joy in Illinois

My best guess is that this picture was taken in 2003, when my oldest daughter was four years old. It was taken at the annual Pride parade in Chicago, on Broadway Avenue somewhere between Belmont and Diversey.

When I was her age, back in the early 1970s, the idea of a Pride parade was unheard of, except in New York and a couple other places, including Chicago. But in the time between my being four, and having a four year-old of my own, a lot has changed. And on this front, it’s moved in a direction I’m happy with, because rights are rights, no matter who you are.

My right to be married is, at present, dependent solely upon my sexual orientation. It’s not about procreation at all. If it were only about that, people who are sterile couldn’t get married, and those who married but did not have children would be charged with a crime. Neither of these is the case.

People who happen to love someone of their same sex don’t have the same rights that I have. It’s wrong to give me the right to marry one type of person, and while denying me that same right when it comes to another person. I’m already married, so this doesn’t directly apply to me, but anyone else could make that same argument themselves. So I’ll make it for them here.

I’d like to believe that I would have been on the right side, historically, of past civil rights struggles like abolitionism or women’s suffrage. That would have taken courage, though, to go against long-established social norms. The easy thing to do is to go along with things as they’ve always been. If that denies people of basic human rights, though, it’s the wrong thing to do, as I see it.

So back to the four year-old holding the Pride flag. So much has changed in society during my lifetime, and gay rights is high on that list. Saying something or somebody was “gay” used to be a huge put-down in the time and place where I grew up. I want to believe that “gay” is a term she’ll never use to make others feel badly about themselves.

I also want–when she comes of age–for her to have the right to marry anyone she wants to, whether it’s somebody named Steve or somebody named Sally or somebody with any other name that I can’t imagine right now. Denying her–and everybody else–that right has gone on long enough, in a nation that calls itself the land of the free.

Today was a huge day in my home state of Illinois. Both houses of the state legislature voted to give all of the state’s citizens the right to marry whoever they want to. And as someone who’s lived here every day of my life, I couldn’t be any happier.

Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on the Pride parade

The picture above was taken at the Chicago Pride parade a few years ago. It’s an annual event in the Chicago neighborhood known as either “Lakeview” or “Boystown,” depending on who you talk to. I lived in this neighborhood for several years, and the parade was always a fun time. I haven’t been to it in years, and I understand that it’s gotten bigger and rowdier every year. So the City has decided to make some changes.

Time will tell if these changes will successful in addressing the issues of crowds and drunkenness, but experience with another Chicago parade is instructive on some level. Years ago, the St. Patrick’s day parade was held on March 17 (even if it was during the workweek) and went down Dearborn street in the Loop. Think of Ferris Bueller on the float, or Harrison Ford on the run in The Fugitive. Urban setting, skyscrapers all around, it was great. Exactly what you want in a parade, or at least it was for me.

But the City’s politicians felt otherwise. They moved the date to the weekend before March 17, and moved the parade route to the open-air environs of Columbus Drive. It’s still well attended every year, but anyone who remembers it from before will tell you it’s not the same as it once was.

Everything changes–parade routes included–and that’s neither good nor bad. And the Pride parade next summer will have a similar feeling to it. And wherever it is, I’m sure it will still be a party and a half.