I guess in a sense, the event itself is a form of activism, regardless of your personal reason for being there. It does give our community an opportunity to be more visible and to remind local governments that we are here, in ever increasing numbers. Local officials understand that, numbers I mean. In a national election, a minority group doesnt hold the political power that numbers entail. In smaller local elections (City Councils, Mayors, Judges, Sheriffs, etc.), having a minority group strongly behind you, or against you, can make a difference. I cant imagine a candidate for the Governors office in Texas riding in a gay pride parade. But at the Alan Ross Freedom Parade in Dallas (Dallas Gay Pride Event), Mayor Laura Miller is a regular and respected participant. Last year, the first openly lesbian sheriff of Dallas was a welcomed participant and was cheered as she passed by. The event itself is without a doubt an opportunity for activism, but thats not all it is.
Pride events are typically held in larger metropolitan areas, most of which have vibrant and active gay and lesbian communities in them. For the people who live in those areas, pride is a chance to get together and have a great party. But there are thousands of gay and lesbian Americans who live in rural areas where there are NEVER any gay pride parades or celebrations. They live in small towns where there is no gay part of town where its safe to hold hands, or put your arms around your partner. In a state like Texas, where they can still walk up to you and say Youre fired, because youre a lesbian, the opportunity for activism has a real price attached to it. Living in areas where you have real fears of being the target of hate, or losing your ability to support your family is hard. Getting the opportunity to participate in an event like gay pride, being around thousands of other gay and lesbian Americans, being exposed to the activism that does go on, and getting the chance to breath a little easier while you hold your partners hand is well worth the 2 or 3 hour drive to get to the city. So we go, every year. We go to be activists, to party, to be with our community in a setting where we are safe for one day. We sit in parks and listen to music, play with our children, throw Frisbees with our dogs, listen to music, and buy HRC T-shirts and caps with fun slogans. My favorite cap last year said Yes, I am a Lesbian on the front, and No, you cant watch on the back.
We dont go to offend, or to fight, although as we in Dallas walk from the parade route to the park, we are always confronted with protestors carrying signs telling us to burn in hell, or that Jesus hates us. The Police keep the screaming, hateful crowd away from us though, and we just walk past and smile. We dont have time to listen, or waste any effort trying to talk to them. After all, we just have today. Just this ONE day. Tomorrow, we go back to rural little towns and try to live not in the closet, but under the radar. We need our jobs and we have to live here. It was great to have that ONE day though. One day to party, and participate, and not feel so isolated and oppressed. One day to hold her hand and not be afraid. One day to life up my voice and still have a job. One day to stand with thousands who are just like me, and feel hope that someday, ONE day, well be treated just like everyone else.