Resuscitating Pride Houston will take more than a miracle.
We know how it is when a dear friend reaches the end of his or her life. It sucks. Hard.
Once strong and vibrant, now broken and weak, she’s a shell of her former self. He’s barely recognizable.
Selfishly, we want to stay away because we want to remember them at their best, not for what they’ve become. We prefer to remember the good times. But it’s our duty, our loving obligation to be there for them, to pay our respects, to say thank you for all they meant to us.
We suck it up and take that long, hard trip to the hospital. We make that extra effort to attend what everyone knows is probably their last birthday party or Christmas dinner.
Well, many members of Houston’s GLBT community felt exactly that way this past summer as we approached our town’s annual Pride festivities. Many, including myself, feared that the 2007 Pride Parade and Festival would be the last to be held in June in Montrose.
But a strong push from a small but vocal contingent of Pride Houston volunteers seeking to move the festivities to a downtown celebration, held in September, fell short. Following more than a year of debate, derision, and division, the Pride Houston board of directors voted on August 25 to keep the parade in Montrose in June. At least for 2008.
The reasons not to fix what wasn’t broken seemed so clear to those who opposed the moves, just as the reasons supporting the moves seemed so clear to its advocates: Tradition vs. Progress. Queer vs. Commerce. Right vs. Righter.
And with the possible exception of the Taliban and Toby Maguire’s character in Pleasantville, nobody wants to live in the past. Not really, even though the air might be considerably cleaner (and the clothing looser). So now it’s time to move forward with Pride, learning from mistakes and missteps, yet simultaneously being motivated by remembering the good times:
Let’s remember the thrill we felt witnessing our very first Pride parade, seeing hundreds and hundreds—no, make that thousands and thousands— of Montrose queers reveling in tribal jubilation, our futures revealed to us in rainbow Technicolor before our ever-widening eyes.
Let’s remember how Westheimer seems to glow ethereally, almost levitating as it transforms into the biggest nighttime parade in the Southwest. If not actually morphing into the Yellow Brick Road its very self, it at least becomes a glimmering Alternate Route winding its way through our Emerald City.
Let’s remember the thundering ovations embracing PFLAG and HATCH and dozens of church groups, representing the “we are everywhere” face of Pride.
Let’s remember the flagrant edginess of our drag and leather and atheist entries, all defiantly refusing to be anything but gloriously, unabashedly, proudly queer.
Let’s remember stopping our floats and contingents each year in front of Mary’s, respectfully honoring those whose ashes are scattered in its backyard, casualties in a war that has raged far, far too long.
And let’s breathlessly remember the inspiring and rejuvenating surge at the Westheimer curve, where the stream of spectators, three and four deep, seemingly becomes one body—one giant, self-contained organism—expanding to 10, 20 deep, cresting at Montrose, finally easing down to a trickle at route’s end.
But they’re not one body. They’re individuals, gay and straight and otherwise, who flock each year to our gay Mecca, same time, same place. Some are there to get drunk and celebrate wildly. Some are soberly awestruck. Some are scared to death, carefully avoiding the cameras. Some are there simply to get laid .
All are seeking the inspiration that flows from this one annual event like honey from the rock.
Maybe that curve represents the thrill of not knowing exactly what lay beyond, something of a metaphor for our own GLBT struggle for equality. Real, imagined, or whatever it is, it’s powerful and magical. Just like us.
And now for the good news: Our dear friend, though broken and weak, is rallying. With much love, attention, and nurturing, Pride Houston will be fine. Just fine.
More than 80 people representing our community’s many and diverse organizations, as well as numerous individuals representing themselves and their esteem for Pride, gathered at a town-hall meeting in January to discuss the moves proposed by Pride Houston. Almost all of them opposed the changes. It will take all of them and more to step up as volunteers to resurrect this ailing organization that had, for 29 years, been the strong, upright backbone of Texas’—not just Houston’s—GLBT community.
A volunteer application can be found at www.pridehouston.org/volunteer.
See you at the next meeting.