Once upon a time, about forty years ago, Stew and I attended our first Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. We didn't really participate, join the marchers, wave any rainbow flags or make any noise. We stood discreetly on the sidelines, a safe distance from the drag queens and other scandalous participants: Were the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—men irreverently dressed as nuns—or the leather-clad Dykes on Bikes, defiantly revving their Harleys, already part of the parade?
We don't remember. At that time Stew and I were so uncomfortable in our own gay skins that any public demonstration of solidarity with other gay people—out in the middle of Chicago, no less—would have given us a nervous rash even if all the marchers had been pin-striped accountants.
Neither one of us was "out" to our families, neighbors or coworkers, nor did we have many gay friends. Cloistered anonymity was our operating style. At the time I was working for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor to the U.S. Department of Energy, and part of the job application process had been a signed affirmation I was not a homosexual, alcoholic or any other sort of deviant human being.
We lived in a single-family house in the suburbs, thirty miles west of downtown Chicago, with a beagle, a dachshund and a cat named George, named after the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.
Last Sunday, Stew and I and two friends attended the Gay Pride Parade in Mexico City and we had a blast. I felt as if all the tens of thousands of strangers milling around the iconic Angel of Independence monument, waiting for the invariably delayed and chaotic parade to launch, were close friends. The warmth, the small talk in Spanish and English, the laughter, were infectious. I felt exhilarated and whole.
For a huge city, Mexico City's Gay Pride Parade is relatively small. Newspapers the day after estimated attendance at between eighty and two-hundred thousand, compared to Chicago's nearly one million. The event had a homey, block-party feel to it.
There were no public officials present and few signs of corporate sponsors—no floats representing large companies or banks—only a few American Express metallic balloons proclaiming solidarity, and vendors of Doritos in special-edition rainbow flag packages. The one, very significant exception this general official snub was Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who mingled with the celebrants.
The vacuum left by the absence of official corporate or government sponsors was more than filled by an explosion of individual expression. Gym bunnies, after months of weight lifting finally got to show their tattooed physiques barely contained by minimalist Speedos, while couch bunnies, who had labored equally hard over their costumes, unveiled their interpretations of Aztec kings, Las Vegas showgirls, Scottish golfers in kilts, operatic characters, and even a bishop wearing a cardboard miter hat with a gold satin tablecloth for a cape.
An hour and a half late, the parade finally meandered down Paseo de la Reforma, one of the city's most majestic boulevards, past the U.S. embassy which flew a rainbow flag beneath the Stars and Stripes in honor of the occasion.
Leading the parade was a tangled, four-hundred-meter-long rainbow flag—about thirteen-hundred feet—that took forty-five minutes or so to unfurl, followed by a huge balloon in the shape of a condom. A little farther behind was a posse of vaqueros wearing the intricate, formal regalia Mexican cowboys, and who rode horses that seemed increasingly impatient with the going around in circles waiting for the crowd to move.
The final destination, probably after four or five hours of stop-and-go parading, would be Mexico City's huge main square, the Zócalo, for a rally and more music at the foot of the Metropolitan Cathedral and Mexico's National Palace.
We left after three hours or so of mingling, laughing and meeting people in the motley mob around the Angel of Independence. I wished we had met them forty years ago.
|This guy could audition for the part of Jack Twist in the|
Mexican version of "Brokeback Mountain."
|One of about two-dozen members of the contingent|
of Vaqueros Mexiquenses (Cowboys from
the State of Mexico), who came fully accessorized,
including a beautifully saddled horse.
|A pair of cowboys in matching shirts.|
|Lest anyone miss their presence, the gay vaqueros wore matching shirts and name patches and |
brought along a large and horribly
cacophonous Mexican brass bass.
|Even the horses got tarted up for the parade. |
This one reminded me of Bo Derek in "10"
|The tee-shirts said "Yes, we're lesbian moms with|
twins. Get over it!" Any questions?
|"Is she gay too?" I asked. "I don't know,|
she doesn't talk."
|Our friend Ron Anderson, socializing with two cowboys|
who came to the parade on their own.