For a moment, I want to mourn.
A stonefaced crowd is shoulder to shoulder, marching behind a leather-clad woman standing on the back of a pick up truck that is blaring techno hits. A few try to shuffle up enough excitement to mimic a dance move.
This is how Adelaide, Australia, a city of 1.2 million on the southern coast, kick off their pride parade.
It’s too serious, I want to shout from the street side. Liven up a bit!
Pride parades are meant to be a celebration, a way to uplift, a joyous occasion.
Yet, Adelaide’s pride parade serves a stark reminder. We need solidarity among the oppressed.
Adelaide is not exactly a rainbow lovin’ city. Yes, there are a couple of clubs designed for LGBT clientele open on the weekends and there is enough of a community to host a parade and 2-week celebration, but there is still fear.
Everyone knows everyone here, or so I’ve been told. Too many people are still half-way in the closet, acting straight with their families or at workplaces. Being out and proud here is a big step here.
On the city bus, in restaurants and other public spaces, people still make comments that are offensive and homophobic. Same-sex marriage is still debated at parties, in workplaces. At the parade, there are protesters with microphones and a speaker dooming the rainbow-lovers to hell.
The city administration itself, while professing to be gay friendly, keep traffic going along the parade route, the marchers only allowed to occupy a single lane. Cars drive past, drivers shielding their face, embarrassed to be caught alongside the march.
This certainly isn’t Toronto’s pride, the only other frame of reference I’ve got for a pride parade.
In Adelaide, there are no crowds of onlookers here roaring with applause of dancing to the beats. There are extravagant floats or scantily clad bodies. The Australian Prime Minister is certainly not here.
And just as I’m about to tear-up, the flag bearers, the men dressed as nuns, the teenagers wrapped in rainbow flags turn the corner, the people carrying placards calling for equal marriage round the corner.
The mood lightens. I wave at a few friendly faces. I feel hopeful.
But more than that, I am reminded why these parades need to exist.
They are a response to social conditions that needs to change. They are a movement, a call to action. They are reminder that we’re here, we’re queer, and gosh, we need the broader society to do better. We don’t just want acceptance or people to say “I have gay friends…” before they justify something awful.
We want to feel free.
We don’t want to be the subject of debate. We want to hold hands, and not feel apprehensive. We want to be free to act however we feel like, and not monitor our action in case they might be too gay. We don’t want to worry what you’ll think, or what you’ll do.
We want to be loved and accepted.
We want to be free to be.