San Diego Pride March
There’s a point every year during Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade that you have to remind yourself what it’s all about.
The message the parade is trying to send can seem as confused as the spectators who spend more time staring at the oiled-up dancers than their trophy girlfriends.
Amongst the sequins, the feathers, and the leather, it’s easy to forget the origin of the event. In some ways, Sydney’s parade has become a PDA – a public display of affectation.
So it was extremely refreshing to see the Pride March in San Diego on the weekend. It was an event for the gay community, embraced by the whole community.
It was not a spectator event where the locals came to the street to gawk at the participants – the spectators were as much a part of the action as those on the street.
This was a true expression of support, of solidarity and of pride.
San Diego Pride vs Sydney Mardi Gras
There’s no doubt that Sydney’s Mardi Gras is a huge event that brings tourists to the city, provides a focus for the queer community and provides a platform for social issues to be raised.
But, compared to something like the San Diego Pride (or many other Pride events around the world), it’s not clear that it achieves its aim.
So, here are some things to consider… things that Sydney could learn from other parades around the world:
If you hide in the shadows of night, you lurk in the dark part of people’s minds. And so, by holding the Pride marches in the middle of the day, the participants are showing they have nothing to hide.
The queer scene is too often associated with darkness, with night, with the things that happen in the dark of night.
Starting the parade at 11 in the morning brings the cause out into the open and helps illuminate the issues.
Although this probably has more to do with the time of day than anything else, it is interesting the alteration of mood that a sober crowd can bring to a march.
Much like the dark, alcohol is often associated with the queer crowd. By removing it from the event (voluntarily, keep in mind), it shows another side to the culture.
It’s not needed to enjoy the event. In fact, the event becomes more enjoyable because it is not tainted by the vulgarities of excess. It lends itself to a friendly and family feel.
Quite astonishing to a foreign observer was the number of children and families at the Pride March in San Diego. You wouldn’t normally think it’s the kind of event to take your children along to, but there they were by the SUV-fill (that’s an American reference).
And they were getting extremely involved in the celebration – waving flags, blowing soap bubbles, playing instruments.
As the marchers walked down the street, they handed the children toys and stickers and candy.
Whether the youngsters actually understand what it’s all about, who knows? But one day when they do have to make a decision about how they’ll treat someone, they’ll remember the welcoming atmosphere… not the loud music and leather of Sydney.
Speaking of outrageous costumes, San Diego didn’t have too many. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few outlandish outfits and they were well-received by the crowds.
But the floats weren’t all about flashy choreography, blaring music and eye-catching costumes.
Unlike Sydney, this was focused much more on the message behind the float.
There were serving members of the military, politicians who had fought for important legislative changes, or actors who played a mother on an iconic television show and then turned out to be gay.
(OK, there was just one of them in the parade, but Meredith Baxter from Family Ties is cool enough to seem like an entire float!)
Once the San Diego parade finished, there’s no doubt that the parties began. As we all know, gays will be gays.
The city probably doesn’t expect anything else, anyway. But the city did get a chance to be a part of the action and you felt like it appreciated that.
There was not that Sydney feeling that the queer community is putting on a show for the crowds to come along and gawk at.
In this case the feeling was that the crowds came because they wanted to support and they wanted to show that they shared the same emotion as everyone involved… pride.