Monday, June 30, 2014

LGBTQI Pride: A Fly on the Wall of History

The sun had begun to soften behind the elegant tops of the Queen palms, its slick orange glow spreading a hot, translucent haze over the chest-pounding rumble of a sea of giant Harleys. 

For the most part, they rode in pairs: the old and the young, some mothers; all of them daughters, the working and the unemployed, professionals and not, their resilient women’s thighs astride their shiny chromed machines, with a latent energy so fiery sweet I could taste it on my tongue. Dykes-on-Bikes, I was told by one who knew them, a magnificent body of female strength - fortified and made whole -  liberated, they would say - by a sisterhood forged in the burning heart of psychic and physical love.
I watched from my place beside them, my anonymous spirit among them; milling around me were the marchers, the dancers. The chocolate-skinned. The golden-haired. The closely-cropped, the leather-clad; young men and old, conservatively attired or resplendent in elegant drag. I closed my eyes - the better to focus - and felt the sweeping surge of a tribe’s raw emotion – pride in their identities. Just PRIDE, as they’ve come to call it. 
I breathed them in, filling my whole self with the power of us assembled. A spark of adrenalin tingled at the tips of my fingers. Then, as in the old days, I knew the odd sensation for exactly what it was: the existential energy that can lift one off the ground when the cause is just, and the stakes are stratospheric, and the change that’s transforming our corner of the world is long past due.
As a daughter of the troubled sixties, I’ve done my share in the public square  – marching in solidarity with the lunch counter sit-ins. For farm laborers. For gender equality. For a planet steeped in peace. Of course, by my measure, this is exactly as it should’ve been, since here in the US, there’s a banner-filled history of parades for equal rights - human rights, really: marches against slavery, for women’s right to vote, for an end to nuclear testing, just to name a few.
So I found myself back in time last week, on a steamy night in Florida, when our throng filled the streets with flash and blaring music and the multi-colored twinkle of illuminated floats, as the reaffirming smiles of many thousands lined our route, cheering and watching in animated wonder, mothers, fathers, children awash in a sweaty moonlight. 
We walked for what seemed like miles to me - out of shape, out of breath - a rainbow world of humanity come purposefully together. LGBT and straight, in no way did it matter; we were partners in the cause for the stark and pivotal truth of it: abridgement of any soul’s basic human rights withers and weakens the whole of us. Truncates us all.

Exactly 50 years since our nation’s Freedom Summer, when folk of good conscience across the US joined in solidarity in the full-out, bloody battle for civil rights, it felt right that Florida night to be back on the wall of history, a gadfly still, with silver at my temples, continuing my part… and the struggle goes on.
Strings of shiny beads coiled by the pound round my arm; strand by single strand, I placed them into the hands of the children, the sparkle in their eyes giving light to my private darkness, urging my solemn promise to help ensure their freedoms. To continue to do what I can. Every small bit matters. I’ve got kids too. And grandchildren, praise Heaven. More than for those starlit cherubs along the way, I walked for my own. 

At the end of the night, my daughter on the car seat beside me, the ache in my feet felt right. Memorable and good. And in ways that I hadn't in a very long time, I felt at home.

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