The Third Pride March in a Small Conservative Town
Today I went to my first Pride march ever. For the most part I had stopped myself from attending the yearly protest for a reason that a lot of young folks share- I had no permission from my parents. Wonderfully ironic.
Lately, however, I’ve been focusing on myself more than ever: what do I want for myself? I have stopped myself from following my true wishes all my life, it’s exhausting. I don’t care if the path I choose is difficult. I don’t want it to be easy, I want it to be mine. So I went.
My experience carried many ups and downs. Just one hour before the event, rain poured down- it hadn't poured in several months. Here we are, in the middle of July, and in comes the strongest rainfall of the entire year. It seemed like somebody up there didn’t want us to go out, however, it stopped just a couple of minutes before the parade. Whoever was the cause of the rain, they didn't want to stop us. Rather they looked to test us- almost like a warning for the attendees, that their desire to live their authentic truth, screaming and jumping alongside of their community wasn’t going to be handed to them.
There were fewer people this year than last, and maybe even fewer than there were at the very first Pride here three years ago. One would not have been able to predict the outcome of the parade just by the bleak look of the park at which it started. Though three years may seem like a decent amount of time to gain social credibility and build safety within the town, the fear of violence against the LGBTQ+ community has remained a paralyzing reality. Even with this being the case, to my surprise, and even more largely to my suspicion, no threats were made.
Though we have been holding our mayor accountable to his queer constituents- making sure to show him we are still here with voices worth listening to- it is hard to see the authenticity in rainbow police cars escorting the pride parade down the street. Truthfully, if you are not white, cisgendered, and at the very least, middle class, the police don’t protect you- they think it's their job to protect others from people who look like you. The policemen were not there to ensure our safety from folks who sought to harm us. Rather, they were there to make sure that we did not step out of their government lines. These were the same folks that saw more value in protecting government landmarks than humans. Huge letters that carve out the city’s name rest peacefully guarded by government forces. Meanwhile women who demand justice from their abusers are targeted and queer folks who protest for their right to love and live are endangered. Their side had been clear as day.
To add insult to injury, we had been suffering from an intense heatwave for weeks prior, largely due to tequila factories deforesting the land to grow agave, and the only boost of morale provided to us was a tiny sound system provided by a local tequilera. This sound system was contained in a closed cart, leading the charge, filled with some of the most flamboyant people in the parade. Just imagine the look of them all- enclosed in a glass moving cart- filled with promotional alcohol signs. It was a subtle, yet poignant representation of how corporations felt about us. This was them participating in rainbow capitalism while simultaneously harming communities and ecosystems.
I had been led to believe that Pride was a celebration- full of queer joy, laughter, and love. We were all supposed to be so overcome with bliss that our bodies could not help but to dance. Yet, my community was unable to jump to the sounds of sweet symphonies- our unifying force, our music, had been stifled, hard to hear from the glass box yards away from the back of the parade line. We all still felt the threat of the colonial status quo. Everyone that had been holding power had previously wanted us dead. If their minds were to change now it would only be because most of us are old enough to become their workforce, and more importantly, their consumers. They’ll only protect their means of production and modes of consumption.
Though the government had tried to steal our celebration and sell it back to us at twice the price, there has always been another face to Pride that could never be touched by oppression brokers. This face is one of protest. The most beautiful and truly inspiring sign in the parade was being hoisted by two older queer folks. They surely had been fighting way longer than any of us. The image of them sitting at the back, barely visible from the lone glass box ominously playing music was a subtle, yet touching portrait of what it feels like to take on a different lifestyle in a small, conservative town. This view reminds us all that if you ever want to say something challenging, you’ll have to value the acceptance of small numbers, even when you know your community deserves so much more than that.
All was not lost, though. It may have started out rough under the constraints of rainbow imperialism, but there was a bright spark of hope between all of us. As the day continued and we began breaking free from the gaze of the government, more and more people joined in the parade. The irregular spot on the street now felt like a mass of people- people in their homes were cheering and playing along with us, we were asking and sharing each other’s socials. Many artists showcased their beautiful work and for several moments I felt genuine hope over what’s to come. We started the day in fear- and rightfully so as it was our third public outing. However, we are learning where and to whom to look when we need support. The real love is going to come from the community, not corporations or institutions. As long as we organize and mobilize with the government or corporation money, we’ll be limited to what they want the parade to be and what they want us to do, and that’s supposed to be the very first thing we fight against.
It’s time to remember where all of this started. It never hurts to pick up some bricks and brawl with whoever wants to shut us up. We need to pick our own bricks, fight with our own hands, play with our own rules. We were born this way, and it’s exhausting having to fulfill anybody else’s dream.
About the Author:
"I write the same way I breathe, walk, eat and go to the bathroom, I do it as a way of existing in a world that doesn’t want the people like me to exist, through writing I’m allowed to be everything I want to be, everything I was always meant to be, a creator of worlds, characters and life, I partake in the joy of creation every time I look in the mirror and I call the name that I chose to have instead of the one that was assigned to me, writing is an extension of that TRANSforming power."
Photos by Kevin Haro (@kevinharo_arph)