I’m sitting in front of MSNBC as I write this Friday morning, waiting to see if today’s the day that SCOTUS chooses to release their decision regarding the legality and legitimacy of gay marriage in this nation. Regardless of how or when this transpires, whether we’ll know the answer before this weekend’s Pride festivals in NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and so many other communities celebrating this weekend, I’m still a proud gay man and I’m happy to count so many gay men and women, friends, my brothers and sisters.
It’s to join up with one of those “families” that Jesse and I are driving down to NYC to join up with for Sunday’s Pride festivities. I first walked into a rehearsal with the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps band in May of 2000. In fifteen years I’ve watched the group grow from the 15 people who were in my first rehearsal to often an eighty-to-hundred-strong musical marching juggernaut. In the years I lived in Chicago, my biggest disappointment this time of year was missing getting to march down Fifth Avenue with my sousaphone on my shoulder and so many good friends in harmony around me. Through this group I’ve had the honor and thrill of representing our community by being part of the national Lesbian & Gay Band Association band that marched in Obama’s inauguration parades. Twice. The second time we marched 180-strong, making us the second-largest contingent in the entire inaugural parade! If that doesn’t send the country a message, I don’t know what does.
I think it’s important to understand that it’s ultimately who we love which defines us from the rest of the world. Yes, there are cultural differences and relational differences, but these are probably more resultant of decades of discrimination, and demonstrate our resiliency and ability to evolve into harsh environments and do it with flair. So I think it’s of course important (to say nothing of fun) to see parade participants who look sexy in skimpy costumes or resplendent in full drag, being flamboyant and outrageous and proud. I do get a little tired of Associated Press managing to publish only the most lurid photos, though, seemingly completely ignoring the fact that MOST of the parade participants are normal folk who just happen to be gay, and who wouldn’t be caught dead walking down Fifth Avenue in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers wearing a speedo. Community groups, churches, corporations, parents and families, and just folk; they’re proud too, and have far more to do with who we are as an entire community than just the few of us who might show more skin. This has nothing to do with what a person looks like; it has everything to do with who we ARE.
So this is why when so many of my colleagues are stripping down for NYC Pride, I’m going to be girding up. The band has a full uniform, and one I’m happy and proud to wear (and sweat my balls off in, the way weather often is the last Sunday in June in NYC!). Aside from my long-standing association with the band, I think it’s seriously important to show that there are ways for any of us to be involved in bringing pride to our community and joy to the public at large. Beauty is so far more than just what we look like, it’s about how we interrelate, how we care for each other; it’s about what’s in our minds and hearts. I think the band is a far better analog to that model of our community than are floats full of gogo boys. Not only are we all friends, as an ensemble we have to keep our ears open to each other to stay together; as a parade block we need to constantly be checking in to make sure we’re still in rows and in step. There’s an intimacy to that sort of connection, to working together to make music; being in a band is about working together to accomplish a common goal, and all you need to do is be able to carry an instrument. Playing it helps, but I’ll vouch for it that it’s really not quite necessary, at least not to start–just keep trying, and you’ll get better.
I’ll reiterate, floats full of porn stars and gogo boys are still important and awesome. Just don’t discount the larger parts of the parade, the groups that actually give onlookers something to reach out to and to actually be able to identify with. We in the band may not be the sexiest bunch, at least not in the conventional sense. But we are BEAUTIFUL. And what is Pride about, if not to make us all feel beautiful?
SO. Watch for the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Band. Somewhere towards the back (we’re usually at the back) will be the sousaphones. Mine’s HUGE. I’m a tad shorter than some of the other sousaphone players, so it may not stick up appreciably, but my bell is substantially larger than the others. That’s me! Wave!
AND AFTER THE PARADE… I’m not done with the Big Apple Corps. Every year at the Pier Dance Heritage of Pride selects community groups to run the bars. All tips earned go towards the community group. I’ve helped with the LGBAC’s bar a few times in years past, though it makes for an exhausting day. However, this year the challenge HoP issued to applicants was to come up with some sort of “celebrity bartender”, and the band honored me by asking if Jesse and I would join them. This year the band was granted the coveted VIP area bar, and Jesse and I will be there starting early in the evening, helping raise money for this band. Come by, order a drink, and say hello!
And with that, there are cheers going up over Washington DC. Lots to celebrate!