One of the biggest cheers J and I heard at this past weekend’s Boston Pride parade erupted while the marchers were still assembling on Boylston Street and a much-loved, recently elusive entity Came Out: the sun. After a full Friday of torrential rains, on Saturday even tropical storm Andrea couldn’t rain a single drop on Boston Pride’s parade.
Although J and I have watched Pride parades in other cities, before this weekend we’d never attended Boston Pride. Previously, we’d been what you might call accidental Pride spectators, with J watching the Atlanta parade because it wended its way through the predominantly lesbian neighborhood where he used to live and me watching the New York parade one year when my ex-husband and I happened to be staying in Greenwich Village that weekend. Before this year, though, J and I never made a point to attend Boston’s own parade, mainly because we’d never really set the date aside. You might say that Boston Pride didn’t really register on our gaydar.
And then Jason Collins came out. The minute J and I heard that the current NBA (and former Celtics) center had announced he is gay, we knew we’d have to attend this year’s Boston Pride parade, where Collins marched alongside his Stanford roommate (and our congressional representative) Joe Kennedy III. Coming out as a sports celebrity in an age of unrelenting media and Internet scrutiny is a brave thing, and J and I wanted to make sure there were at least a few rabid basketball fans there to personally applaud Collins’ announcement. I’m sure Collins has gotten more than a few angry looks, nasty emails, and mean Tweets simply because he had the nerve to Be Who He Is, and J and I wanted to add our voices to a chorus of cheers drowning out the jeers.
I’ve mentioned before that I often get teary-eyed when J and I watch the Boston Marathon every year because there’s something emotionally powerful about cheering for perfect strangers:
What chokes me up on Marathon day is the way spectators show up to cheer on strangers, shouting all sorts of encouragements: “Keep going!” “You can do it!” “You’re amazing!”
Can you imagine a world where we cheered each other on like this everyday, not just on Marathon Monday? Can you imagine a world where strangers shared simple kindness with one another, simply to keep them motivated and moving?
It turns out, I also get weepy at Pride parades, and for a similar reason. Can you imagine a world where everyone you see is happy and smiling simply because everyone there accepts them for who they are?
Long before we spotted Collins walking alongside Kennedy with a throng of photographers shooting their every move, J and I hollered and clapped for the much less famous marchers. At any Pride parade, the participants who make headlines are the flamboyant and fabulous: the shirtless young men gyrating in underwear, for instance…
…or the strong and serious dykes on bikes,
…or the towering drag queens.
All of the above were present at Boston Pride, but they were far outnumbered by the otherwise ordinary folks who were simply doing in public the things straight people do all the time without considering it a Political Statement, like walking hand in hand with their partners while wearing a uniform…
…proudly proclaiming themselves as parents,
…taking the baby for a stroll,
…or just walking the dog.
A Pride parade, in other words, isn’t about flaunting your sexual preferences in public; it’s about having the courage to show your face in a world that often wants to pretend you don’t exist. This is why J and I wanted to attend Boston Pride, look Jason Collins in the face, and let him know that in the eyes of these two straight, entirely non-flamboyant basketball fans, being gay is okay.
And so when Jason Collins and Joe Kennedy passed where J and I were standing and cheering near the corner of Boylston and Clarendon Streets, J and I got loud.
“Celtics Pride,” I yelled while pointing to my Celtics ballcap, and J screamed “Jaaaaasoooon!” while pointing to his Celtics shirt. Collins looked at us, smiled, and waved, and I yelled “We love you, Jason,” at which point Joe Kennedy looked right at me, mouthed the words “Thank you,” and walked on.
And that was J and my brief brush with fame. We’d already cheered and gave our “thumbs up” to peace activist and Boston Marathon bombing hero Carlos Arredondo…
…and later, we’d cheer (and J would dance) as Senator Elizabeth Warren sashayed her way down the street.
But the real heroes of the Boston Pride parade aren’t the famous or fabulous folks who dominate the headlines on Pride weekend but the otherwise average, ordinary folks who live, love, and deserve common human decency every day of the year.
Click here for more photos from this year’s Boston Pride parade: enjoy!