A reader sends the above photo and writes:
I have to say, Andrew, that years ago I felt the same way about Pride; I've never felt a part of any gay scene, per se – whether drag, leather, twink, bear, whatever. But for the last nine years, I've been producing a music stage at the San Francisco Pride celebration – first the Shadowplay Stage, and now the Indie Oasis stage. And it gives me hope for our society's future, a feeling I can't get from television portrayals or blog debates on LGBT issues.
Our stage is mobbed by young people eager to dance in the streets. It's clear that their sexuality (and gender expression) is mixed, and mostly irrelevant.
I see gay, lesbian, genderqueer kids dancing in the streets with their straight friends – something that would not have happened when I was young. They come not just from San Francisco, but from the suburbs, and further away. The queer context of the day and of the festival means that the straight kids who come are choosing to embrace their queer friends' orientations – not just to tolerate it, but to embrace it. And every year, also we get numerous LGBT couples with their children, and lots of other folks besides the drag queens and leatherfolks featured by the media – though we welcome the outrageous folks, too. It's a party!
A week later, there is another massive gathering of people, on the waterfront for the 4th of July fireworks. But for me, Pride Sunday is when I feel proud of my country.
What brings people together in a Gay Pride March is not necessarily "shared psychological traits," but a shared, deeply personal experience of the effects of homophobia. (There are some outliers that don't share, or perhaps recognize that they share, this experience, but most do.) Straight people, of course, can be ardently opposed to homophobia and fight it with great ferocity – and God love 'em for it! – but they don't have the same, you'll excuse the expression, "skin in the game." They haven't had the same conflict between homophobia and their innermost feelings.
There are, of course, multiple reasons to go to a Pride Parade: the spectacle (seeing it and/or being a part of it), the fun, the social aspects, "getting dates!" (as my father observed), providing support for "for those just coming to terms with being out." But at the heart of it is a group of people standing publicly against the pervasiveness of homophobia – not standing against it by giving a speech that says "I oppose homophobia," but standing against it by standing there, openly, together.