PRIDE 2009

I have a confession: while my Detox has been going on, I haven’t exactly been languishing in a monk’s cell examining my soul. I have been doing things, just not writing about them. Bad Alle!

The most important event of my week was Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade. I’ve gone almost every year as a spectator, but this year I was invited to be a part of it and ride on a float. My friend Chris is the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, and her wife AJ has been one of my closest friends for years. I was maid of honour at their wedding last year, and I secretly think this was their way of repaying me!

So of course, what to wear to the Pride Parade? I was going to wear the Chamber’s t-shirt, of course, but I couldn’t be boring with my other sartorial choices–it’s Pride, after all. I decided that I’d take some inspiration from Fafi and dress as a fafinette–so I pulled on some shorts and some stripy kneesocks, pinned a pink sequinned flower in my hair…and painted big blue hearts on my cheeks with acrylic paint! Voila, je m’appelle Fafinette Malice! I felt so happy.

BEFOREThese pictures were all taken at about 9am, which meant I was up at 8, which–because I go to sleep at about 4 or 5am regardless of whether I’ve been out–meant that I was running on very little sleep that morning. I stopped to grab a coffee so that I didn’t die on the float, and the barista took one look at me and asked, in all seriousness, if I was a boy or a girl. Sigh.

So I made it (with no further insult) to the parade route, and then couldn’t find our float. I had a general idea of where it was going to be, but I couldn’t find it for the life of me. I was crossing the road, panicking, when I ran into Jason, who I knew from last year’s wedding madness and one particularly awkward dinner party. Jason was ALSO on the float, which he ALSO couldn’t find, so we joined forces.

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Eventually we gave up and called Chris for help. Turned out that we were all of twenty feet from the float the whole time; akin, of course, to drowning in a foot of water. Oh, we’re hopeless!

Being me, I managed to injure myself within ten minutes of arriving at the parade. A laminated cardboard sign went rogue and cut my arm. Of course.

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Amazingly, this was the ONLY INJURY I sustained all day. Let me contextualise this for you: I was standing on a float four feet off the ground, while I myself am close to six feet tall. I had a foot of space to stand in, with no guardrails to stop me if I lost my balance and fell to the street. And I was dancing the whole time the float was moving; the float itself prone to sudden stops, starts and accelerations. So while it’s no great shock that I cut my arm open on a cardboard sign, it’s a miracle that I didn’t die.

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My sexy striped socks, sequinned Converse low-tops…and tiny strip of space that I had to stand on. You can see the edge of the float on the left, and the little driver’s…pit, I guess? On the right. Either way, if I fell–which I didn’t!–I’d be breaking something. Scary, right?

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AJ and I, getting ready to take our places on the float. We were so excited! My goal for the day was to teach her the words to the chorus of LMFAO’s song “I’m in Chicago” but it turned out to be hard. “Wait, is it ‘I’m a Chicago trick’? What’s a trick?” Oh, AJ! I love you!

Even though I love Pride, there’s always one dark cloud. Every year, one virulent chruch group protests the parade and gay people in general. Not content to just get angry, this year AJ and I decided to fight back.

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AJ’s sign says “May the Holy Spirit heal your hurts and bring you closer to God.” Me? Well, I’m not Christian and I don’t believe in an omniscient, Santa-like God–but I do believe that my friends should have the same rights that I enjoy as a heterosexual. Anybody who says differently for any reason will have me to deal with, and it’s just that simple. My sign was simple.

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I am going to tell you about my experience with these protesters now, because it was the most significant experience of the day. Please read this part, whatever your sexual orientation, because it’s really important.

After our float reached the end of the route, AJ and I walked back to where the protesters were standing and spewing their hatred. We stood in front of them, held hands, and held up our sign. We immediately drew the attention of both “preachers” on the bullhorns, who began telling us that we’d better repent, because God hated our horrible, sinful ways. That we were worse than murderers for deliberately going against God’s word. Encountering that degree of hatred is something that I’ve seen from a distance, but never experienced firsthand. As a straight person, it’s not something that I personally have ever dealt with because I’m part of the invisible majority. And dealing with it head-on was really something.

I’m not even sure what these people were saying to us after a while. Hate’s not creative, and it was background noise after ten minutes. Because they kept telling us to repent and ask God for help, AJ knelt down in the street and started praying. She prayed for them, that God would talk to them and let them know that hating others isn’t what he’s about. I stood and held the sign as high and as proudly as I could, and all that I could think of was how sad and hurt and scared these people must be. How can they look another person in the eyes and tell them that they are less than human? That who they are is so abhorrent that God would turn away from them?

We stayed there and silently protested for about half an hour. The whole time, as AJ prayed, all that I could think was I hope you stop being so scared. I hope you feel happy one day. I hope you feel love. Please don’t be afraid to be good. And I meant it with every fibre in my body. Even though they’re filled with hate and horribleness, they’re still people, and they can still change and be happy. I hope that they do. As we walked away, we told them that we loved them and I blew them a kiss. One small step for Alle and AJ, for sure, but it felt huge that day.

Now. Back to the parade! This was what I saw standing on the float, before the parade had even started.

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This was in front of us. We were right behind an elementary school (which had recieved bomb threats because they were letting the kids march) and Dykes on Bikes. I had a mini-freakout because there were So! Many! People! Get me off this float! Luckily, AJ and Chris have experienced my panic attacks before and they calmed me down. And I am so glad that they did, because the parade was AMAZING and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for anything!

About half a million people lined the parade route. We dispersed beads to the happy crowd. We sang along with the music our float’s DJ was playing and danced. Oh, did we ever dance. We worked it out from start to finish; two and a half hours and over 25 city blocks. It was amazing. We were high on the love and excitement of the crowd, and by the end even though we were sweaty and grimey and exhuasted beyond all sense, we were totally elated. It was wonderful.

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They really are, too. They make me believe that there is a perfect person out there for me, somewhere.

After we were all done, Chris cabbed it back to the Center on Halsted–which is where the Chamber is based–and AJ and I walked (so that we could confront the pray-away-the-gay protesters). Because we had so many beads leftover, AJ and I left the float with literal bead turtlenecks on. We handed then out to pretty much everyone we went past; one girl dumped glitter all over us as thanks. I’ve washed my hair twice and I’m still finding it everywhere.

Once we had cooled down, we realised that we were starving. The only thing we wanted? PIZZA!

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Dear Bacci’s Pizza, please make your slices a little bit bigger. They’re only the size of my head. Thanks! Love Alle.

After some gossip and general fuckery, it was time to go home. Even though I had the best day at Pride, I was really happy to walk in my front door and take off my shoes.

AFTERCovered in glitter, beads and sweat. But as you can see, the hearts stayed on all day. Acrylic paint was a controversial choice to put on my face, but you can’t doubt the evidence: it really stayed on. And lest you worry that it stayed on too well…

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Yep, I rubbed it and it came right off. Didn’t stain my skin or anything. I can also report no blisters (sensible shoes ahoy!) whatsoever, no sunburns and no missing personal effects. I did think I’d managed to get a farmer’s tan on my arms, but it turned out to just be general grime from the boxes of beads and washed right off. Phew!

Once my hair was reasonably dry, I made sure the central air conditioning was on, poured myself a huge glass of water and crawled into bed.

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Seriously. It was. And the exhaustion? Totally worth it.

Happy Pride, everyone. I am so proud to have been a part of it. I hope that if you ever feel like the world’s a cruel place and people are horrible, you can just think of the fact that half a million people of every age, race and religion came to this parade to support the gay community and love in general. It’s beautiful thing. And it really works for me.

Loves you!

3 thoughts on “PRIDE 2009

  1. is amazed by your pictures and the telling of a gripping pride parade! Panda bear is tearing up. LOVES YOU!

  2. “the barista took one look at me and asked, in all seriousness, if I was a boy or a girl.” – this reminds me of the Halloween I was mistaken for a drag queen. Hooray for being tall!

    I’m always struck by the protesters. We were late this year, but last year there was an excellent counter-protest – I think there were more signs for than against. That’s awesome you were a part of all that.
    Sometimes it’s fun to be near protesters on the parade route. It sucks you have to hear them spew hate, but some of the floats go that extra shimmy just to rub it in and that’s always fun 🙂

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