Pride 40 Years After Stonewall

I’m writing this during the afterglow of both the 2009 Minnesota Leather Pride Celebration and the 2009 Twin Cities GLBT Pride Celebration. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that was the beginning of the modern gay-liberation movement, and it was the 37th local Pride Celebration. In 1972, the first Twin Cities Pride consisted of approximately 50 people walking down Nicollet Mall with handmade signs, and then hanging out in Loring Park with a cooler of sodas. Now, 37 years later, according to organizers, Twin Cities Pride is the third-largest Pride celebration in the country.
Interestingly, this year’s festival didn’t seem to be attended only by GLBT folks. Everywhere I went, I saw more mixed-gender groups, and I especially noticed more male-female couples. They might have been just friends, but their body language—or their wedding rings—said “couple.”

If all these people were heterosexual, what were they doing at a GLBT Pride Celebration?

They were being supportive and accepting, that’s what. Maybe they were there with gay friends. Maybe they heard the radio ads for the festival on AM950. Maybe they just know we throw a good party, and came to check it out. Whatever—the point is, they were there, enjoying a beautiful day in the park with us. And they didn’t seem either threatened or threatening.

But, if all these non-GLBT people are here, is it still GLBT Pride? Are we losing our turf? Are we being corporatized, assimilated, and co-opted? What would the pioneers at the first Gay Pride gathering in Loring Park have thought of this? Did they know in 1972 that this would be the scene 37 years later? Is this what they were fighting for?

Both the protesters at Stonewall in 1969 and the pioneers in Loring Park in 1972 were fighting for the right to be themselves—no longer to have to hide parts of themselves from a hostile world. It’s 2009, and we’re not there yet, but we’ve made major strides. At least some non-GLBT people, who seemed a threat in 1972, have become our friends and allies who celebrate with us, and don’t ask us to hide.

How many years have we, as a community, been trying to make this happen?

And just in time, too. Another March on Washington—demanding “FULL equality NOW!”—is planned for National Coming Out Day on October 11. The last time the GLBT community marched on Washington was in 2000.

Will it be said of the 2009 march that more allies were present than in 2000?

I hope so. We haven’t reached the full-equality stage yet, but the more allies we have working alongside us, the sooner we’ll get there.

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