I do love this time of year. Rehoboth Beach for Memorial Day is the official start of summer. But as the sunny skies turned to wind and rain, wigs got strewn along and abandoned on the beach and it looked like drag queens had their own sort of Dunkirk moment.
The fun and good feelings rolling out of Rehoboth and Memorial Day roll right back to the District and into Pride. And it all feels like a holiday that only we get, that we then share with the rest of the city because we’re cool like that. The whole city seems to get in on it. Rainbow stickers, flags, and banners, seem to unfurl overnight.
But why Pride, anyway? Some seem to ask this question every year, or at least some variation of it. As the parade rolls past —what’s with all the corporate sponsorship? All these politicians I’ve never heard of? Well, good questions. And rather than bore you with some exhaustive list of the myriad reasons to pride it out, I’ve come up with simply two.
It irks all the right people. Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, all of these folks that secretly wish they could dance in the streets at Pride in Washington, D.C., have to resort to bemoaning it, while privately they dance alone to “Blank Space” or something. Though of course this shouldn’t be our No. 1 priority, it is fun to think of that anti-gay baker getting all huffy at the sight of rainbow flags popping up around his neighborhood. And if you ask, should spite factor into our Pride celebrations? I would answer, have you ever met a gay man before? Of course it should. And we can all smile at thinking about Tom Cotton touching the screen of his television as Pride footage is broadcast, while tearfully enjoying some anti-gay cake or something.
It’s still someone’s first Pride. What was your first Pride? Your first in a large city that seemed to pull out all the stops for it? Those small-town Pride celebrations, those smaller gatherings in student unions and such are of course important. But there is something about stepping off a train and feeling an entire city alive with the energy of Pride, all those gays and lesbians of all shapes and sizes rushing around wishing you a ‘Happy Pride.’ Remember how liberating and joyful it all felt?
Pride is a reminder that our numbers are greater than we know, and the power and strength that comes from that revelation. If Pride is in danger of becoming rote to you, the same-old-same-old experience, try to remember the gay kid who drove all night to get to D.C. to experience Pride in the nation’s capital. You might not have noticed him, but he certainly saw all of us. And while it’s often hotter than a gym without air conditioning down at the festival, celebrating with the Capitol dome shining in the background is an incredibly important image.
It’s always someone’s first Pride. Last year, that distinction went to my parents. Coming all the way up from Arkansas to see what Pride was all about. So impressed, enthralled, and taken aback by it all, they went back to their little Methodist church and started a local PFLAG chapter. That’s how powerful Pride can be.
This all belongs to you, and you belong to it. And while there are certainly growing pains and setbacks all along the way for us, remember that Pride is our city’s largest celebration, and a true celebration of us. So dance in the streets, if for no other reason but to irk Mike Pence.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.