To those of a younger generation it may seem at times that things haven’t changed much in terms of gay rights. But ask any older individual and they’ll shed light on the trials, struggles, and advances that have been made in the past 60 years. For, as I stood on the sidewalk in Dupont Circle in our nation’s capital this past weekend, watching as thousands of proud gays and their straight allies marched down P Street, I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy.
My ex and I lived in “The Village” in New York in the 1960’s. We would eat at our favorite neighborhood bar, Stonewalls. I was straight, most others were gay, but the food was good and the atmosphere was delightful. Then, one night in 1969, as Miss Sylvia Rivera threw her shoe at police in protest of their trying to shut down the Stonewall bar, everything changed and life for Gays in America was never the same.
It was the beginning of a movement that for me, 42 years later culminated in seeing the DC Gay Pride Parade. As I watched young and old alike march with pride during the parade, floats adorned with decorations and decorated men and women, banners and posters held high, I flashed back to my days in NYC, the riots, the AIDS epidemic, and the years between then and now. Suddenly I felt old, but not in a negative way. I was reminded of all I’ve lived through, seen, and survived.
Days after Tracy Morgan’s “I’d stab my son with a knife if he told me he was gay” homophobic rant, I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of people with hearts bigger than science could ever justify. A woman who couldn’t have been much older than me carried a hand-made poster that read, “I LOVE MY GAY SON!” Children of both gay and straight couples lined the streets awaiting candy and beads being tossed from floats. Music pumped through the streets and alleyways. Smiles adorned faces. It was “gay” in every sense and definition of the word.
As I watched the young and joyous and the old and youthful walk from DuPont Circle to P Street, I felt more like a well-worn, wise repository of history. While many were screaming about all that has yet to be changed, I swelled with pride and cried for all I’ve seen accomplished. It’s a new world, one with possibility and potential and hope. And while this weekend’s events were aimed at celebrating the lives of homosexuals and the LGBT-movement, it illustrated love and acceptance so thick in the air that it was almost tangible, and with a little imagination you could literally reach out and grab it, feel it and hold it with your own hands. It was a reminder of why we live, not just that we are alive. It was a call to action to live with gusto, to love with joy, and to be proud out loud.