On Saturday morning, June 3rd at 10am you can be standing with the crowd on Olive Avenue in the Tower District, anticipating the traditional leaders of the Pride Parade, the Dykes on Bikes, who’ll rev up their engines and drive past the crowd to open the 16th Annual Fresno Pride Parade.
During Fresno’s second pride parade, in 1992, political statement took center stage. The KKK showed up again, though fewer in number, and set up base at the sidewalk in the parking lot next to the Tower Theater. They held picket signs with statements such as “God’s Answer To Queer – AIDS” & “KKK”. They left their robes behind that year, but not their hate, evidenced during an interview with local news where we were referred to as “sodomites”.
About halfway through the parade came the group from ACT UP, led by a large banner in black and white. At the point where they were passing in front of the KKK, they suddenly gathered in mass directly in front of them. Half the ACT UP group laid on their backs on the asphalt while other members drew chalk lines around their bodies. They chanted “HEY, HEY / HO, HO / HOMOPHOBIA’S GOT TO GO!”
Toward the end of the parade, QUEER NATION marched and shouted anthems loudly as they approached. The centerpiece of their group was a tall, lanky marcher dressed in a bright pink KKK robe, complete with hood, while tossing around a rope. The rope had a noose on one end, and the pink robed satirist occasionally put it over the head of a fellow marcher and led them around. The group paused and yelled out at the KKK, who were now intermittently yelling back. Queer Nation enlisted the crowd to chant along. “HEY, HEY / HO, HO / THE KKK HAS GOT TO GO!” Police moved in on foot and motorcycle to join parade monitors who were already there, not to break anything up, but to maintain civility. After a couple of minutes QUEER NATION moved on without incident.
It’s different today. AIDS has become a very different beast, the world is more out than it’s ever been, and we’ve been marching in Fresno, of all places, for well over a decade. Pride now has evolved into a day of community and celebration. With the absence of organized protests like those of the past, coupled with a paucity of media coverage, Pride in Fresno has settled into the role of community tradition rather than a primary setting for political platforms. While this may seem strange given that we’re currently surrounded by an encroaching mass of bigotry, the point of a pride parade was always visibility, which at this point is woven deep into the fabric of American society. It seems appropriate that our activism is a year round responsibility, and that the one day and month a year that are dedicated to us should be our time to celebrate ourselves.
We are, however, at a critical point in our history in this country. Gay marriage is the biggest hurdle we’ve ever attempted to cross. Legal marriage for the LGBT community would open our lives up to much more than we currently have. Whether you’d personally choose to marry is not the point. Legalized gay marriage would alter the direction of prejudice and hatred in America. It’s approval would remove the government stamp of approval from the inequality we now live in. We would round the final corner and start a path toward a different America, one where Americans practice, in some small way, what we preach. The movement to equal rights for LGBT people can move no farther forward until same sex marriage is legalized. We all can have a part in that. Political activism is something we all need to add our voice to, no matter how small, in whatever way we can. Whether this means sharing with friends and neighbors about the rights we’re currently denied, convincing as many people as possible how important it is to vote, or signing up with a political action group, every voice helps.
Ballot initiatives that would amend the California State Constitution to forever block gay marriage could possibly show up on the ballots in November 2006 or in 2007.
Check with www.eqca.org for updates.
Pride is our time. We deserve to revel in our visibility this one time every year. Maybe we should look at it as both our first day and our graduation., as we come in from fighting the battles and share laughter and experiences, before stepping back out into the fray.
Pictures from Fresno Pride Parade 2002
Pictures from Fresno Pride Parade 2005
Fresno Rainbow Pride Website
Fresno Pride General Inquiries: E-Mail
History Of Gay Pride
Pride Events in 2006