A friend asked me the other day why homosexuals felt the need to have a parade every year. The Gay Pride celebrations happening all over the world this month might suggest to some that we are being a tad bit aggressive. People tend to like their gays and their women passive, after all. I mean, why do we have to flaunt our lifestyle? Shouldn't we "tone it down a bit" and make everyone more comfortable? You know, the way all those straight kids at school made us feel so comfortable all those years?
I've heard it said more than once, "Why do gay people parade their sexuality? Where's my heterosexual parade?" I guess my answer, in a nutshell, would be this: Parades, albeit a bitch to organize, are not exclusively gay. Anyone can have a parade. (Remember to put the horses in the back.) Now, while your straight parade will most likely not have quite as much, um, color, as a gay parade, I'm sure it could be very nice. I imagine it would be like The Superbowl, only mobile. Please feel free to have a parade if you'd like. After all, other than equal rights for homosexuals, it's a free country!
Honestly, I want a parade, because I need one. I need a parade because I hid myself from the world for over twenty years of my life. While other boys my age were "parading" their crushes on Farrah Fawcett and Cindy Crawford, I was sneaking glances at John Schneider's shirtless torso in teen magazines at the grocery store while checking over my shoulder to make sure nobody saw me.
When my friends paraded their boyfriends and girlfriends through the halls in junior high school, I was in the locker room concentrating hard on keeping my eyes straight ahead, making sure not to steal a glance at Jimmy Nixon as he undressed next to me.
While girls in study hall wrote love notes to hunky football players, I wrote my effeminate friend a note saying I didn't want to hang out anymore. Being seen with him might cause people to perceive me as a fag. Not wanting to be guilty by association, I chose to hide the fact that Mark was my friend. Until he no longer was my friend.
When other kids were going to prom and football games and sending valentines to their first loves, I was postponing my first love for later in life, age 29, when I finally felt brave enough to be honest.
I don't just need a parade. I deserve a parade. Every gay person who spent even one day telling lies or pretending to be straight deserves a parade. Anyone who hid in that suffocating closet of self-hatred deserves a parade. See, our parade says, whether you want to watch it or not, we are finished hiding and being ashamed and choking on our own homophobia. We are, after all, learning to accept not only ourselves, but one another. Gay men are learning to accept transsexuals, who, in turn, are learning to accept lesbians. Butch men and women are learning to accept flamboyant twinks. Latino Bears are learning to accept Asian Polyamorous Moms. Drag Queens are - well, they are just busy making fun of everybody. But that's why we love them.
Just like every year, my tears of pride will begin falling the minute the parade begins. They'll start streaming down my cheeks as soon as I hear those Dykes on Bikes rev up their motorcycles, and they won't stop until the very last PFLAG mom who loves her gay son passes by me. And in my heart, I'll say, "There's MY parade."