Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Why Pride?

Why is there Gay Pride? There isn't Straight Pride. And with Hillcrest being such an incredibly gay area, isn't everyday Gay Pride?

I can only answer these questions for myself, but since it's my blog, I think that will be okay.

Let me say first and foremost, I have now and will always have a special place in my heart for San Diego's Gay Pride celebration. I came out as an openly gay man back in 1989. Back then, the issue of gays in the military was just heating up. Everyone seemed to have an opinion, and just mentioning the subject was enough to start an argument. It was before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and it was very tough time to be gay in the military.

My own departure from the Marine Corps will one day be detailed in a post of its own, but for now it is enough to say that being an openly gay Marine was not an option. After I got out of the Marine Corps, I moved to San Diego. A friend (also a former Marine) encouraged me to march in the Pride Parade with the gay veterans. I agreed, and didn't really give it much thought until the day of the parade.

We formed up as a platoon, and I was a squad leader. As we marched, I could hear cheers and shouts from the crowd along the parade route. But the definining moment came as we turned onto a side street between 6th & 5th Avenues. The crowd was packed in tightly, and the buildings along the entire street were side-by-side and several stories tall. It was an echo chamber, and the cheers from the crowd seemed to grow louder and louder with every step we took. I was so overwhelmed by the support, the chanting and screaming and cheering. Having just been separated from the Marine Corps because I was gay, such support was the last thing I was expecting. I continued to march, but I could not see anything in front of me through my own tears. I felt so much love, such acceptance. People were proud of me as a Marine, and as a gay man, and it was almost more than I could take.

So yes, I do see the value in a Gay Pride parade and festival. Sure, I have now been out as a gay man for over 15 years. But there are always going to be young men and women who are finding their way. And for them, there is nothing quite so empowering as their first pride celebration.

Yes, Gay Pride is a party. But it is also the time to see the community... all of the community. We are young and old, black and white, male and female. We all bring something unique, and Pride is about recognizing and honoring that fact.

Finally, many of us in San Diego take our gay community for granted. We have been away from little towns for so long that we forget how difficult it can be to be open about who we are. We are only reminded of this when we visit other communities or hear people tell their stories. We must always remember how fortunate we are to live here, and we must remain ever vigilant that San Diego never becomes a place where gay lives are lived in shame.

Equality - No Turning Back

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