Starting off, I am not LGBTQ, but I do support the self expression of all and having a space where you can be comfortable in your individuality. I say, let people love who they want to love!
I’ve always wanted to experience a PRIDE parade, but my mother didn’t know that. At least not until the day of the parade on September 16, 2018.
It was a flaming hot day last fall, and my mother and I were avoiding going out in the heat until the parade. She never asked what kind of parade it was, so I didn’t tell her. I just told her I was volunteering to march in a parade. Now if you know my mother, “I just don’t understand them.”
It was past 12pm, and we headed out the door. Though the actual parade didn’t start till 2, I needed to be there by 12:45 to line up with Street Team. We took my car, which had no AC, and ventured down to Oak Lawn.
“So what kinda parade is this we’re going to?” My mom asked as we rode down Riverfront Blvd. I was still afraid to tell her the truth, unsure of her reaction and certainty she’d call me gay and tell the whole family, and then some. It would be better to surprise her. I thought.
“It’s just a district thing. All the community colleges will represent,” I said.
After making it to Oaklawn, the streets were packed with pedestrians and cars. Parking was quite near impossible. While looking for somewhere to park, there was a swarm of rainbow everything and everyone. People were wearing things they wouldn’t on any other day. Glitter, thongs, no bras, BDSM harnesses, you name it. My mother was mortified.
“Are they having some gay parade, too? What’s going on here? Why are there so many rainbow flags?”
“Is this the parade we’re going to? Don’t tell me you brought me to a Pride parade. Raven.” She gave me that signature look before maneuvering back down the packed streets.
I finally confessed. This was the parade I was marching in, but I thought there’d be no way she’d take me if she knew. I told her I thought she’d have a quite different reaction, but she took it better than expected.
After parking much further from where we needed to be and reparking closer to the destination, we made it to the other marchers. We spent the next two hours waiting for our turn to march. It was only getting hotter, and we brought no sunscreen or protection from the sun. So I bought us rainbow umbrella hats and a big umbrella from a vendor. I was making the most of the little water bottles and snacks provided by the Street Team Van.
I felt increasingly uneasy the more my mother complained about the heat and kept asking how long we’d have to be there and what time it was. She ended up spending most of the time in the refreshingly cool van. I’d wished I’d done the same, but it was already packed. So I tried mingingling with the other marchers, watching them dance, talking about the semester, and other small talk. 2:00 had passed, the parade started, and we still weren’t walking. At around 3, my mom asked again, “how much longer?”
We left before we even marched. I felt bad because I felt like I didn’t do precisely what I came to do. But, it also wasn’t as fun as I expected because I only saw that small section of waiting to march and not the joys of getting stuff thrown at you, food vendors, celebrating everyone, the connections, and witnessing all the other stuff that goes on around a pride parade.
This year wasn’t any better. It was worse, even. I made sure my mother didn’t wait and complain while waiting for the parade to start. I wanted to follow through with marching this time, and I’d enjoy it. This time it was on a new date in a new location.
I asked my mother to drop me off at the fairgrounds. I’d call her when I was done. I estimated 3:30 to be the end time, but I was far off. I had no idea what the upcoming 5 hours would bring.
Oddly enough, my mother had fun. I absolutely did not have fun and regretted coming.
For 5 hours, I waited with complete strangers and my one friend. The strangers were other students from throughout the district and were in their own cliques. They weren’t too interested in me, so I reciprocated that same energy. I stayed in the sun that entire time, my giant umbrella providing little relief to the sun, trying to make the best of the heated silence and comfort that knowing one person brought.
At the same time, I had no idea my mother was off talking to vendors and parade participants, chatting it up with couples, and so on. She even got to sit in the cooled venues on the fairgrounds while awaiting my return. After 4 1/2 hours, we finally marched, and that was it. Everything was over. At 4:40, I could leave.
I didn’t get to immerse myself in the true experience of a PRIDE parade. None of the connections, none of the dancing and just living, none of the mementos to take home for the nostalgia, no fun photos. Just heat and waiting, boredom. I don’t know… the next time I go to a PRIDE parade, I definitely only want to be a spectataor.