Everyone remembers their first.
First car, first kiss, first love.
But do you remember your first Pride Parade?
I won’t ever forget mine. It was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2010.
I had arrived for the day by a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and coincidentally, it was Pride Weekend. I was ecstatic to discover the Parade was that very morning. Could the stars have aligned more perfectly?!
At the time, I hadn’t been out of the closet for long and hadn’t had the chance to attend a Pride Parade. But there, finally, was my first opportunity.
And in Puerto Rico, no less!
After making my way through security to disembark the ship, I hustled over to the Condado District. It took me almost 40 minutes to walk from the cruise terminal to the parade thoroughfare.
The scorching heat burned my pale flesh, and the air, thick and heavy with moisture, hung oppressively. I kept pushing my sunglasses up the bridge of my nose without success. They just slid back down due to all the sweat. And my sticky tank top clung to me like a second skin.
But I had arrived. And just in time.
Lining the road were both locals and tourists, eager for the festivities to begin. Street barkers hawked their rainbow wares while homeless people milled around asking for money. Then we heard it. Down the road wafted the strains of a driving techno beat.
The Parade had begun.
With each float that passed, I hooted and hollered, clapping furiously. And whenever a fabulous drag queen came by, I waved unreservedly like the dork I am, taking copious amounts of photos.
Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, so any signage that wasn’t written in English, I had to try and puzzle out. But it didn’t matter. I was already on sensory overload. Besides, everyone was speaking the language of acceptance.
Someone came down the street, passing out rainbow bracelets. I took a handful and wore them all! I wanted the world to see that “YES, I DO HAVE PRIDE!!!”
I didn’t mind the heat because I was awash in color and energy. Everyone was there to celebrate and have fun. We weren’t a small minority with a meek voice. No, we were a force to be reckoned with.
We were alive and joined together by a singular purpose: To Live Loud & Proud.
Alone, I swayed to the music, and yet, not at all alone. I felt like I belonged, sliding sunglasses, sticky tank top, and numerous rainbow bracelets included.
I wasn’t Latin. I didn’t speak Spanish, but I was among friends.
It was my first time, my first Pride Parade, and I was finally part of the Community!
Phoenix Pride Education & Outreach Committee Member