Saturday, July 03, 2010

The first and final gay pride march

Next year you'll probably find me marching at the Heritage of Pride march down 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Perhaps with the Queer New York Bloggers contingent. I keep getting invited and turning them down because I'm never around for pride weekend in New York. At least during the last couple of years.  Then again, I might have marched in my last gay pride march ever.

Truth be told, I've felt a bit prided out the last few years.  I see a rainbow flag and I cringe.  The thought of hours and hours of commercially sponsored floats carrying a seemingly inexhaustible number of go-go boys and drag queens dancing to the same Lady Gaga song doesn't seem as fresh to me as when go-go boys and drag queens were dancing to Madonna way back.  And watching some of the Latino groups spend all that money on the glorious feathered costumes and elaborate floats breaks my heart when I know how hard they work for the money, if only to blow it on a couple of hours in the sun.

Don't get me wrong! Some of my best friends are go-go boys and drag queens! They are also from Latin America! It's just that when the New York City Department of Health does a float promoting crystal-meth addiction awareness and sees the need to put 20 go-go boys dancing around the float to call attention to the message, well, there is something really wrong with the world.

In other words, I have turned into an old gay geezer.

So when I tell you that I marched at a gay pride march a week ago Sunday and that it was an incredibly moving experience don't just take it with a grain of salt. It was a revelation...

I mean, it wasn't just ANY gay pride. It was the 13th annual gay pride in the city where I was born: Medellín, Colombia... and the first time I ever participated in it.

I mean, this is the city I left in the late 1990's when I didn't think it was possible to live an openly gay life. It wasn't that there weren't any gay people in Medellín at the time. I remember summer romances with two Colombian soldiers, one of whom offered me one of his hollow-point rifle bullets as a keepsake when he found out I was leaving (I refused it, thinking it would explode halfway through the trip back to the United States).

I mean, I was 20 at the time.

I mean, that's Calle 13's "Fiesta de Locos" blasting out of the speakers ---- and every single person singing it!

I mean...

OMG! Never in a million years would I have expected all this 'Glee'ness to happen in Medellín. I was enthralled.

The march was actually one of two gay pride marches in the city that day. This particular one was pulled together by Edisón Arboleda of the LGBT-rights organization Corporación El Otro.  It got off to a slow start and it took ages to make our way downtown, amidst huge sudden downpours and a loss of marchers.

But, as marchers made it over the Colombia Street bridge and into the mostly empty industrial area of downtown Medellín, the march truly turned into one huge party.

I know it might seem like any pride march anywhere in the world to you  but it sent chills down my spine.  It still does as I watch these clips.

A few things I noticed: Only a couple of commercial floats, police turning away a number of drunk soccer hooligans shouting homophobic slurs as a few drag queens watched them being taken away, a march where participants and spectators were allowed free movement instead of penning people in as they do in New York, young queer folk everywhere, a cute photographer from El Tiempo and, yes, Lady Gaga.

I also took a few photos (and so did my brother).  And that was my gay pride this year. How was yours?



Anonymous said...

It's just that when the New York City Department of Health does a float promoting crystal-meth addiction awareness and sees the need to put 20 go-go boys dancing around the float to call attention to the message, well, there is something really wrong with the world.

I don't know why but this comment made me LOL! :)

The parade photos are awesome, btw...I'm pretty burned out from pride as well, but it's always extra nice to see how LGBT people around the world celebrate pride...

Natalie said...

I spent mine at home; like you, haven't been to a pride parade since I marched with Caribbean Pride years ago in NYC because...well, you said it all really. I got chills reading have managed to brush away the commercially varnished 1-day spectacle to find PRIDE that is worth celebrating. It's so interesting that you posted this as well, because I've been reading a lot about Medellin lately - the arts, writers, progressive politics, architecture and public space - so that it is fast beginning my new must-see city. This post just moved it up a few notches on that list.

Jon said...

never been to one. pero espectacular leer tu experiencia.

torrid_wind said...

This collection of photos is GLORIOUS!

Noel said...

Wow, that was really fantastic. Great pics and video. Looks and sounds like an amazing experience. There seemed to be a lot more participants vs. spectators. I think that makes a difference, including here in NYC.

Anonymous said...

Worked the pier dance for the first time. Didn't see the march and have never been. But you are right . . . go-go boys have been gyrating and twirling since Truth or Dare the movie. And they were better looking 20 years ago if you ask me, before queer eye and queer ass folk became a beacon for middle america to flood the dancing booty market with twinks.