2017: Over 37,000 people attended Phoenix Pride in April of this year; the largest attendance ever. Almost every Pride Celebration across the country had record numbers attending. We certainly have come a long way over that last few years to celebrate who we, without fear and with PRIDE. We as a community must cherish this freedom we have and cannot ever forget the road we all took to get here.
1989: This was the year Cleveland, Ohio celebrated for the first time and it was my first time at a Gay Pride Celebration. This type of gathering was new and somewhat strange to all of us. Just the thought of marching down a main street or even just watching from the sideline brought on emotions of stress and fear.
What if there were news cameras there?
What if someone we knew drove by and saw us?
These were all legitimate concerns. The repercussions could be disastrous in our jobs, family and our safety. After several discussions with my partner and our group of friends, it was clear that we didn’t just want to go, we had to go.
THIS WAS OUR TIME
I have to admit, arriving at the parade route that Saturday morning had an air of excitement in it. Not knowing what was to be expected or what could happen strengthened my resolve to be there. Standing there waiting for the parade, I started looking around and noticed several people were starting to line the street. It wasn’t anywhere near the crowds of today, however that didn’t matter. What mattered was that we all came for the same reason.
The parade was small, perhaps 4 or 5 floats and a few groups marching.
As I watched, I had this thought that I have never forgotten:
Was this Gay Pride Celebration the light on the horizon?
Was this the beginning of the light to take away the darkness that covered our community for the past 6 or 7 years?
All those years wasted to this plague that was consuming our community, our nation, and our PRIDE.
After the parade, we all went to the party. There were several booths, it was good to see a few businesses weren’t afraid to be represented and show their support. Our gay soldiers, the drag queens, all showed up in all their deserved glory and entertained all day.
Looking at this fantastic gathering, I realized that we were all dancing to the music, holding hands and kissing. The sun was shining down on us, the clouds were gone at least for this day. I now understood what Stonewall was all about, to get us to this day and beyond.
We all were to experience many more obstacles and bumps in the road. What is taken for granted today was a mountain to climb back then. I am so grateful that I was able to climb that mountain.
The Architects of Phoenix
Phoenix Pride Education & Outreach Subcommittee Leader