Having been in marching band for six years, I’m no stranger to parades. My school participated in all kinds of parades, celebrating virtually every holiday and local festival imaginable. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we would march and play to commemorate the opening of an envelope. I thought I’d seen it all, then I marched in the Baltimore Pride parade and realized my years of middle and high school band had not prepared me for a Pride parade. At all.
When I was asked to march in the parade, I immediately said yes. After all, I knew how to walk and, without having to keep step while playing an instrument, I figured this would be easy. Besides, I’ve always wanted to be in a Pride parade. Growing up, I always admired those marching in Pride parades. To me, they were the doers, the people who stood for something, who worked to make a difference in the world. They lived their truth, danced like no one was watching, and most importantly, they were proud of themselves. I wanted to be like them.
So, when I arrived at the staging area, the sun already bright and hot, I realized this wasn’t going to be like any other parade I’d ever participated in. There was no rigid structure like you find in competitive marching, just friends, old and new, celebrating Pride and looking forward to sharing their love with the community. I slathered myself with SPF 100 (I have ginger tendencies) and a new friend from another organization reminded me not to forget my ears. Somehow, that’s what made it click: “I’m going to be in the parade!”
Our group assembled and tasks were divided. I would be carrying the banner along with a girl who was young enough to be my daughter. During the parade we worked together to make sure the Baltimore OUTloud banner was visible. This meant fighting the ever-changing wind that turned the banner into a sail, adjusting our pace and smoothing the banner while smiling and wishing “Happy Pride!” to onlookers. Behind us was Jim Becker, one of the founders of our beloved paper.
While we walked, passing thousands of cheering people enjoying Pride, I remembered that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Not so long ago, this would have been a very different experience. There was more risk associated with attending a Pride event, let alone marching in a parade. We didn’t have legal protections and being visible meant being vulnerable. The fact that we could be here, now, with thousands of people in attendance, was a heartening experience. For me, it was a visual reminder of just how far we’ve come.
Pride means many things to many people. It’s a celebration; it’s a party; it’s a chance to get involved with all the doers in the community. It’s also a time to learn about our history and pay our respects to people like Jim Williams and Jim Becker, people who made change, fought for our rights, and paved the way for the still-new rights we are already beginning to take for granted.
Looking back, it seems appropriate that we unintentionally organized our section of the parade the way we did. The banner must always be carried. Visibility must be maintained. We must always move forward. For us, the Jim’s created the banner. They carried it for years and assembled like-minded citizens with a common goal. Now, the banner has been passed to my generation. In turn, we prepare the next generation, teaching them how to smooth the wrinkles when the winds rise, how to pace ourselves, and how to keep moving forward.
This Pride season let’s remember how we got here. Let’s give our thanks and respect to those who paved the way for us, and let’s remember to prepare those who will carry the banner in the future. Let’s move forward.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.