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A surprising Pride

POSTED June 30, 2009 9:15 p.m.
When my alarm clock went off at 6 a.m. on Sunday it took me a few moments to comprehend what was happening. I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure I could even tell you what time the sun rises. But there I was, brushing my teeth and applying make-up at what I could only assume was the crack of dawn. What could make me sacrifice my one day of sleeping in this week? I was going to a parade!
My friends and I decided to go to the gay pride parade in San Francisco last weekend for the very first time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I figured it was something worth experiencing at least once in my life. I’ve heard stories of nudity, free condoms, elaborate costumes, and a general spectacle worth beholding. So I boarded the BART at the Dublin station and braced myself for utter chaos.
And you know what? I was disappointed. Sure there were festive displays of rainbows and quite a few from the group “dykes on bikes,” but it wasn’t the unorganized ruckus that I was lead to believe. It really was just a lot of people walking down Market Street, happy and proud to be themselves. There were volunteers directing the parade, police officers and barricades in place to keep people safe, and there were even “gap monitors” to insure the floats did not go too fast or too slow. It was obvious that a lot of time and care went into making sure that the parade was safe and enjoyable for everyone.
I did see a few eye-raising costumes and some public male nudity, but nothing that really shocked me. Well, actually something did shock me. I was shocked at how corporate the whole thing was. There were floats for Smirnoff Vodka, Gold’s Gym, and Macy’s. All of the corporate sponsors gave away prizes to the crowd. I came home with a Whole Foods Market bag full of bandanas, wristbands, and stickers. Even Google gave me a few temporary tattoos.
All of these corporate sponsors pay a lot of money to enter their floats in the parade, in hopes of gaining the patronage of the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual communities. That money goes to the San Francisco Pride Celebration Committee, a non-profit organization that has granted over $1.4 million to San Francisco organizations that work with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer patients.
So, I was a little disappointed that there were so many big companies using the parade as a way to hawk their wares, but I was glad they were contributing to some worthy causes. At the same time though, I had to wonder if all of those people up on the floats were actually proud members of the LGBT community, or if they were just paid dancers. I guess that has to be expected at an event that draws such massive crowds of people into the city. I could barely shove my way back to the Civic Center BART station at the end of the parade, and there were still people pouring out of train cars to join the festivities outside. I’m considering going to a smaller Pride event in another city just to compare the experiences.
Every year the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee partners with a “twin” city for their LGBT pride festivities. San Francisco Pride helps that smaller organization with logistical support and mentoring to help the organizations grow. San Francisco Pride has partnered with Stanislaus Pride Day as a “twin.” That’s right, even Stanislaus County has a pride day. This year’s Stanislaus Pride Day will be held on Sept. 19 at Graceada Park in Modesto. If it is anything like the San Francisco festivities, it is sure to be a fun, safe, and sane way for everyone in the community to express themselves and have a good time.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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