I didn’t go to the 2009 Philadelphia Pride parade and festival that was held this year on Sunday, June 14. Does that make me a bad gay person? Before I answer that (actually it’s a rhetorical question), I think I should give you a little background.
I’ve been going to PRIDE parades since I was in my 20’s. I’ve taken my partners and my daughter to them. I’ve marched in the parades, worked booths at the festival, watched the parades from the sidelines, and even volunteered to help set up the festival. So I’ve done it all from spectator to participant. But not this year…
I knew that June was PRIDE month but for some reason it just didn’t register. My friend, Linda, and I had made plans to go into Philadelphia and visit some historic sites. We wanted to go to the new visitor center and scope out some of the lesser known historical sites that spot the downtown area. The day before we were going, Amy reminded me that it was PRIDE day also. And yet, I just didn’t feel that excited.
Linda showed up on Sunday and just assumed that we were going to change our plans from history hopping to gay pride hopping, but I told her that I really wanted to keep our original plans. She seemed a little stunned by that and asked me why? I muttered some lame excuse that I was really looking forward to walking around Philly and soaking in the history.
Actually, that was true. I love Philadelphia history. But it’s not like it’s going away. Or that I’ve never “soaked up” Philly history before. I’ve been going into Philadelphia to visit historical sites since I was a kid. And I spent plenty of time carting Heather all over the city so she could grow up with an appreciation of the history of our country, a history that we are so lucky to have as close to us as a 5 minute train ride.
You want to know the real reason I didn’t go? It took a little soul searching but I was finally able to admit it to myself. I didn’t go because I’m single and I feel fat! There, I said it and that was a big load of my chest. (Now if I could just get rid of the big load in my gut.) As silly as it sounds, I’m almost 50, single, and 25 lbs. overweight. In the gay community, that puts you into either the “super ancient/aren’t you dead, yet?” category or labels you a BEAR. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Bear.) Wikipedia explains bears here.
I know it’s shallow. I had my skinny young twink days in the sun and those days are past me. But I never planned to be alone at nearing 50. Who does? And for some stupid reason, I coupled that with my few extra pounds into a reason for not attending the PRIDE celebration. It really was silly wrong insanely stupid of me.
I am gay. That community is a part of me and I am a part of that community. It’s how it works. In addition to all the parades I’ve watched, marched in, and worked at, I was Co-President of a GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) community center for three years in the 90’s. Prior to that, I did volunteer work for the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force. Even though I’m not currently active with any specific gay group, that community still needs my support. If people like me don’t support our local PRIDE events, who will? Certainly not the news.
I searched the internet for articles about the PRIDE festival and could barely find any. And finding pictures was even harder. (The family picture is from 2009 but the Liberty Bell float is from 2008.) The press barely touched the story. But what really hit home was Faux News’, er, I mean Fox News’ coverage. The only article Fox published on the PRIDE parade and festival was titled, Phillie Pride Parade Road Closures. Apparently, the only thing worth reporting about the parade was that it caused “road closures and congestion for drivers in Philadelphia.” But it’s the Fox, Bush-loving, right-leaning, liberal-hating News Network, so I wasn’t surprised.
The bottom line is that I shouldn’t have let some trivial concerns stop me from celebrating who I am with other members of my community. And though I had a great time walking around the city with Linda, I could have had a great time watching the parade and walking the festival. Linda and I could have “history hopped” any other weekend and still enjoyed ourselves. I heard a quote somewhere that covers this beautifully. I don’t know who said it or the actual wording, but it went something like this.
So many people miss out on things simply because they are worried about what other people think of them or how they may look to others. Who are these people to you and why do you let them have control in your life? In reality, most people aren’t interested in what you are doing or how you look, anyway. They’re too busy worrying about themselves to worry about you.
Well, I’m here to tell you that I won’t let that happen again. Single or coupled, flabby or slender, alone or in a group, next year I will be at Philly PRIDE wearing my rainbow colors for all the world to see!