Nothing like a pair of Supreme Court decisions to turn 1.5 million people at a parade into 1.5 million good buddies, friends, companions, and even a batch of newlyweds. This year’s Pride Parade must rank among the most joyous of them all, bringing out a larger than normal bunch of celebrators to join in the festivities. Definitely more people than last year. I have a funny feeling the extra participants this year might have contained a majority of heteros; this is San Francisco; no one wants to miss a great party.
As has become traditional, the Dykes on Bikes launched the parade with perhaps a record number of bikers. But aside from the sheer number, something else looked different this year.
We don’t normally see a lot of “Just Marrieds” amongst the riders. I had no way of distinguishing among the truly just married, the just married a long time ago, the just wannabe just married, the just engaged so they can become just married, or the just celebrating the fact that they can become just married. For these pictures I used my point-and-shoot because all of them are Hail Mary photos–hold the camera high over your head and pray you get the shot.
The local constabulary brought up the rear maintaining order, and received some of the loudest applause of all. I also saw many parade attendees thanking beat cops for their service. That represents a huge sea change in attitudes that might not have received the attention it merits. Historically, relations between law enforcement and the gay community have not gone well (see Riots, Stonewall), so the mutual friendliness must mean that something in American has changed forever, and for better.
San Francisco has 800,000 residents, and 1.5 million people came to the parade, so do the math and you’ll realize that almost doubling the population in a single day means that not all of the partygoers were gay. In fact, the Pride Parade seems to become more and more hetero each year. Of course, we had the usual number of nearly nudes posing for pictures with tourists (and as usual the tourists posing for pictures were hetero women), but–well, first some more shots. Note the tutus in the first one. I saw a lot of those this year, and none of the fancy balloon outfits from last year’s parade. Hypothesis: people found out the hard way that balloons pop. For the non-motorcycle pictures, I used my DSLR.
The men wore jockstraps this year, probably not certain of how the new anti-public nudity law might apply to the parade. Now consider this picture. Can you tell which of these women are gay?
You can’t. That the point. Sunday got hot in San Francisco (low 80s F downtown), so the attendees wanted to dress for the heat. The thing is, and I’m sorry to write this, hetero women dressed for hot weather tend to come in for verbal abuse (what guys insist is just “friendly joking”). So how do women dress if they want to join in the fun but don’t want to get hassled for dressing lightly? The solution (please forgive me for sounding like Richard Attenborough): Batesian camouflage. Like harmless flies that mimic the color patterns of bees to discourage predators, the women dressed in rainbow colors to disguise themselves as lesbians for a day and thus evade aggravation.
Not all Batesian camouflage succeeded:
Aside from balloon outfits, something else did not appear this year: noxious “God hates F***” street preachers spewing their usual verbiage. Perhaps the Supreme Court caused them to give up; maybe they shall try again next year.
But you can’t help noticing how the Parade has evolved into a “fun for boys and girls of all ages” event.
Here’s one mom taking her toddler to his very first Pride Parade. Although the gay community maintains a token presence at the parade (OK, perhaps more than a token presence), the weekend events have begun to evolve into something that celebrates the City & County of San Francisco as a whole, and not just one part. Myself, I think that’s great. Gay rights are human rights, and when everybody shows up for the Pride Parade’s fun and joy, we grow that much closer together. Still, I have to wonder if/when some gays might decide they don’t like how their celebration has gotten a bit, for lack of a better term, diluted. San Franciscans have a passionate fondness for protest, so it would not surprise me at all if with a decade we see a counter-parade protesting the “straightened” parade.
Some more pictures from the weekend.
Vonn Scott Bair