Participants dance on a float during the Pride Parade in Chicago. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / June 29, 2008)
The Chicago Pride Parade was yesterday. I didn't go. I was writing pretty much all day, and it was rainy -- the first time in living memory that it has rained on our parade, although I think it held off during the hours the parade was actually happening. It's been known to rain before the parade, but as nearly as I can remember, it has always cleared up before noon, when the parade starts.
At any rate, it's appropriate, I think, to pass on some thoughts about Pride and where we are now. I'm not going to talk about the obvious victories, the apparent progress, the remaining threats: I've done it enough, I think, and you all know what they are. I'm looking at the less obvious stuff, such as the fact that Gay Pride is such a normal thing here that the story in the Chicago Tribune focused on the California marriage decision and the pending civil unions bill in the Illinois legislature. The Sun-Times focused on DADT. The Chicago Reader, our local alt weekly [and, to be honest, one of the oldest and best in the country, in general] acknowledged that the parade was happening, if you cared to look hard enough. Maybe if Boys' Town were in Bucktown, the gay community would get coverage at the Reader.* TimeOut Chicago gave Pride a box on the home page (for Sunday's edition of the website; it's been bumped, but I note that TimeOut has a "Gay and Lesbian" section), similar to the Trib, and UR Chicago gave it a lead story, home page. And this, from the latter, catches my attitude pretty closely:
Oh, Pride. What a wet, boozy, resilient testament to the LGBT crowd's visibility. Sure, some delusional conservative envangicals might ascribe the day's scattered downpours on God's disapproval (which would ignore the gorgeous, sunny weather from the previous couple of years), but actually, the less-than-desirable weather just proved how determined the Gay Pride participants and audience were to celebrate. Besides, if the rain was an act of God, it just goes to show how willing God is to turn an entire strip of Lakeview into one long shower contest. I mean, in case hot guys in Speedos wasn't enough, God wants them to be wet, too? Amen, indeed.
Of course, Windy City Times and Chicago Free Press normally run series during the whole month of June. And we can expect reports in the coming week.
The point of all this is simply that Gay Pride is now, in this city at least, Business As Usual. Pride, like Halsted Market Days in August (which is still, I believe, our biggest neighborhood festival), is simply another celebration in the city. They happen almost every weekend in the summer, although I have to say our two are among the biggest and splashiest. (Whatever else has happened over the years, we still know how to party.)
Chicago Police officers participate in the Pride Parade. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / June 29, 2008)
Which leads me to believe we are witnessing, in what is arguably the most conservative major city in the country (I mean, "major" for longer than the last ten years -- Midwest, Heartland, white ethnics, all the rest), not only tolerance, but acceptance. In the public perception, we're part of the fabric here.
That's the real gain. That's the reality. And that's the way it should be.
(I love this picture. That's the future, man. Go for it.)
Mike Allegretti (right) and Christoper Littmann, both of Chicago, watch the Pride Parade. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / June 29, 2008)
*Footnote: I'm not a journalist. Maybe it's just that legal same-sex marriage in a state without residency requirements, a civil unions bill in the Illinois legislature (with some sectors already pushing for full marriage rights), a mayor and county clerk who are on record as supporting marriage equality, a County Board that has just proposed to extend benefits to gay couples married elsewhere, and a Chicago politician running for president who wants to repeal the federal DOMA, aren't something for an in-depth article during Pride Week. I wouldn't know.