We went to Pride for the first time since returning to Utah. It was a lot of fun, and we had a great time. But I have to say, it was very different than our previous Pride experiences in San Francisco. First and foremost, it’s the first Pride parade we’ve ever attended as a family.
During the 10 years we lived in San Francisco, Kelly and I never missed Pride in “The City.” In about half of those parades we actually marched. Often times it was with political candidates like Roberta Achtenberg (whom the late Sen. Jesse Helms referred to as “not your garden variety of lesbian” during her confirmation hearing after being appointed Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Clinton – making her the senior-most lesbian woman in government at the time.) Other times we marched with the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club.
And in that way, our Salt Lake Pride was very similar: our family marched with a group advocating the re-election of Sheriff Jim Winder. We were also invited to join Sen. Jim Dabakis’ contingent.
But the two events were also very different in a number of ways.
I suppose, not surprisingly, Salt Lake’s event is considerably tamer than its San Francisco equivalent. Kelly and I used to try to predict the appearance of a man we dubbed “Naked Blue Guy,” who ran the parade route completely naked, his entire body painted blue.
It was also far more organized and orderly. I’m not sure if it’s the consensus building of the Pride committee in SF or what, but every year there was confusion about the starting time, and the Dykes on Bikes would get pissed off and just go – causing everyone else to rush out of the gate to keep up.
To be brutally honest, my experiences at SF Pride – although a lot of fun – greatly influenced my decision not to attend earlier Salt Lake parades. Whereas I might find some naked dude running around shaking his blue balls – literally – amusing, but I don’t want my kids to see that.
Yet somehow, for better or worse, that tameness, that different viewpoint of “community standards” that we have in Salt Lake, created an atmosphere almost identical to what we experienced in San Francisco. It was a welcoming, embracing celebration.
When the boys ran out of Re-Elect Sheriff Jim Winder stickers, they started to offer the bystanders lined up along the streets high fives. Maybe it was the fact they’re little kids that caused old and young, gay and straight, regular attendees and curious first-time onlookers to reach out their hand and accept a slap from my kids.
Sure, we were there officially as supporters of a great sheriff, but we were there as examples of a changing world.
In the staging area, we found ourselves next to a group of Mormons, who were there to show their support for equality. Now my friend Aimz would say if they really wanted to show their support, they’d put their money where their mouths are, and quit financially supporting the LDS Church. And on the one hand I agree with her. I also think that by staying active in their church, these folks serve as examples for others, who will feel more secure in coming out as supporters of equality.
Who knows, maybe one day, in true Utah fashion, there will be a contingent of pioneer-clad parade marchers dragging rainbow-covered pull carts. But is it really too much to hope we see Naked Blue Guy running alongside them?