Saturday, June 25, 2005

Happy Gay Pride!

25 June 1973, New York Times, pg. 21:
Homosexuals March Down 7th Avenue

(...)The organizers of the march, who saw the large turnout as living fulfillment of the oft-chanted slogan "Out of the closets and into the streets", said that their goal of 20,000 protesters had been achieved. But observers thought they were over-zealous in counting. No disturbances were reported.

The march, the fourth annual Christopher Street Liberation Day parade, coinciding with the last day of "Gay Pride Week," commemorates the night of June 27, 1969, when a group of homosexuals resisted a police raid by rioting outside a bar frequented by homosexuals, the Stonewall Inn, on Christopher Street.


It was the summer of 1973 and I was spending the summer in New York City as a guest of my friend Maude and her parents Bunny and Gerry. Although Bunny was from the south she viewed all southern men as gay, their soft-spoken ways and manners distinguishing them from northern men. When she found out I was gay she insisted I march in the upcoming Gay Pride Parade, two days before my 19th birthday. I was glad I took her advice. At that time the parade started in mid-town and proceeded south.

I befriended a young black man, Samantha, who told me he lived in Central Park. In my naivete I didn't believe him, how could anyone live in a park? I had no experience of the homeless and don't remember even hearing the term at that time. Samantha's schtick that day, and maybe every day, was to approach anyone and yell at them, "I told you not to wear them shoes!" I found it particularly hysterical. As the parade formed and we marched down 7th Avenue I was awed with the feeling of freedom. I was standing and marching for my own rights, leaving the oppression of Western Kentucky far behind me.

The parade concluded with a rally in Washington Square Park, where the mayor spoke, Bette Midler sang and chanted for gay rights and a man dressed as Lily Tomlin's Ernestine sat perched in a tree in front of the stage.

I attended several Gay Pride celebrations since then, one outstanding moment was on the patio of Dirty Sally's here in Houston, where Garry and I sat with our straight friends Jerry and Carole, having a cocktail and sitting in the shade to escape the oppressive heat. A much older gentleman, dressed in overalls and no shirt, walked up to the bar. We didn't hear what led to his announcement of "Proud? Girl, I have been proud in Houston for eighty years!"

I was back in New York City in 1994 for the celebration of the Stonewall Riots, this time staying in a pied-a-terre my employer leased. On the 32nd floor overlooking 56th street, it was quiet, cool and luxurious. I marched again that year, falling in with the Texas contingency. Years later I met someone who had filmed the parade and there I was once again on the streets of New York marching for my rights as a gay man.

Today I am grateful for the experiences I have had in this life, that I have been able to live fairly free from predjudices. I no longer attend Gay Pride celebrations. The parade here is the first to have been moved to Saturday night when it is cooler. Tonight I will be celebrating recovery anniversaries along side other gay men and lesbians.

As for me, "Girl, I have been proud in Houston for 28 years!"


dAAve said...

DIRTY SALLY'S was such a nice peaceful and quiet place. Lots of class.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

A parade to be proud of indeed.

I have a post today that might eclapse the celebrations this week too.

You have much for which to be grateful...Thank you for sharing your gratitude list each day.

doughgirl said...

Great post Scott

Thanks for sharing those little pieces of your life with us. It's nice to get to know you through these little posts of you life. Though I do enjoy figuring it all out from the gratitaude lists every day. You keep me thinking. :)

Hannen said...

How cool. I had no idea you were such a radical demonstrater. I suppose you marched on Washington too? I don't think I came Out until 1976. We always led such a sheltered life in Butler, PA.


Am I am proud of YOU!

Gef said...

As my mother used to say if you have nothing nice to say...


My Gay Zone