It’s been a minute since I last marched in a Pride parade. In fact, it’s been almost ten years. Kelly, the boys, and I walked in support of our friend, then-Sheriff Jim Winder, who was running for re-election. Everything about the day reminded Kelly and me of the Pride parades we’d marched in when we lived in San Francisco. Well, except Salt Lake’s celebration is better organized and starts pretty much on time.
There are two seemingly very opposite participants in these events that I encountered in my very first Pride nearly 35 years ago, the last one I marched in a decade ago, and that I suspect will be front and center this year as well. Let’s face it, we can’t seem to escape from corporate sponsors and homophobic protestors. And that’s both bad and good.
Let’s start with the bad. The fact that such a wide array of corporate America – from banks and grocery stores to tech and phone companies – have saddled up to be a part of the celebration strikes me as insulting to the origins of Pride. Corporate America didn’t kick open the doors of freedom to LGBTQ+ people. Drag queens of color did.
And sometimes I wonder if we as a community have forgotten that. I wonder if we fail to remember that Pride doesn’t stem from financial sponsors, it was born from revolution. It wasn’t a parade that happened that night at the Stonewall Inn all those years ago. It was a riot.
But deep in our collective psyche, I think we must somehow remember that. Maybe that’s why some of the largest cheers coming from the crowds during those parades in 1990s San Francisco were reserved for ACT UP – individuals who were tired of waiting for a callous government and uninterested corporations to do something about the AIDS pandemic.
Then there are the homophobic protestors that show up every year. Their homemade signs declaring my love for another man a sin, proclaiming my status as a dad a threat to my kids.
I remember the first time I encountered them. They were strategically located along the parade route on Market Street, corralled behind barricades with a couple of SFPD officers preventing insults thrown from both sides escalating to fists being thrown. They were a rain cloud on a sunny day.
In Salt Lake, there were fewer of these supposedly “God-loving” individuals, but they were still obnoxious. However, one of them actually managed to make me laugh. He was brandishing a sign announcing that women who were disobedient to men and drank alcohol were akin to the Whore of Babylon.
But the presence of these two groups is also a good sign. It means we’re winning.
Beyond allowing us to have bigger and better celebrations, corporate support is proof that they recognize both our buying power and that they don’t want to be on the wrong side of human rights. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to buy a product or do business with a company when we view them as supportive of their queer employees, specifically, and the community in general.
And those protestors? The more we become engrained as just another part of society, the less relevant they become. Take, for example, marriage equality. As of June 2022, a whopping 71 percent of Americans support it – including Republicans and those over 65. Every protest sign is proof that we’re still here and that we’re thriving.
And you know what? I’m glad the protestors and the corporations are always there. They remind me we’re winning. Sometimes, the best parts of Pride are the ones you like the least.
Happy Pride, everyone!