If you recall from August of last year, I had plans to march, as Allison, in Madison’s LGBT pride parade. However, a very last-minute familial situation scrapped those hopes. (At least I did dress up for the public one month later.) But I still love a (pride) parade, and I wanted to take in this year’s edition of Madison’s pride parade, which took place on August 21.
The event is technically billed as the Outreach Pride Parade & Rally. The Outreach of the name is the LGBT community resource center here in Madison (mission statement: “To promote equality and quality of life for LGBT people”). Outreach, which just moved to a newer, more expanded office in Madison earlier this summer (memo to self: check it out very soon), puts on noteworthy LGBT-oriented events in the Madison area every year, including an awards banquet that is scheduled to take place this coming week, and, since 2014, a parade and rally every August.
You’re probably seeing that “since 2014” part in that last paragraph and are wondering to yourself, “Really? Madison is so open and progressive, yet they’ve only had a pride parade since 2014?” Well, that’s not true. Other groups have put on pride parades in the past, including a group called Capitol Pride that put on a small parade in the late 2000s/early 2010s. Those groups, for various financial and/or organizational reasons, have come and gone. Some of the previous pride parades and rallies in Madison have been different than what Outreach puts on. Some years it was just a parade; a parade followed by a picnic or rally; and, as I recall one year, just a picnic since there wasn’t enough money in the budget for a parade (a city parade license and police logistics can cost a pretty penny).
But Outreach’s parade and rally has been just that since 2014, a parade first (down Williamson Street that first year, up State Street last year and this), followed by a rally, musical performance, and sponsor gathering situated along the square surrounding the State Capitol. Thanks to Outreach’s organization and its attracting of sponsoring (and supporting) businesses and various LGBT-oriented organizations, the Outreach Pride Parade & Rally has grown in each of its three years. In fact, this year’s Outreach Parade & Rally attracted four times more people than last year’s, or so I recall one of the organizers stating at the rally (don’t quote me on that).
Yes, I’m bummed that I couldn’t attend the first two Outreach Pride parades/rallies in 2014 and 2015, as I was out of town on familial matters (pre-planned or otherwise). But I was present at the 2016 parade/rally. However, I was in attendance as my male mode self. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, I had an adjoining (non-familial) matter right after the event that precluded me from dressing up as Allison. Plus, and I hate to say this, I didn’t have the urge to dress up for the event. Even with my post-rally plans, I wasn’t up to putting on a wig and skirt. I think I had that “once bitten, twice shy” sort of feeling to dressing up for Pride; I would have loved to do so, but I had a gut feeling that an outside force would prevent me from doing so. Luckily, nothing came up, so at least I got to attend and witness the parade and rally, albeit as drab ol’ Male Mode Me. Perhaps that decision not to dress up as Allison for the parade was a subconscious decision on my part, a turning point in my life as a crossdresser to stay true to the community yet expand my personality outside one found in a wig and skirt. Or maybe not.
But you want to see proof that I was there, you say? Well, of course, you won’t get to see images of me at the parade, but the below images come from yours truly. Yep, I have video footage of the parade? Brace yourself, because it’s a 13-minute clip, but it has so very many lovely images. Are you ready? Here goes!
A few things: First, I actually had two cameras at the parade; one was my trusty still photo camera, the other was the video camera on my phone. I took images from both and created the composite you see above. About that video camera… yes, it worked, thank you for asking, but at one point I inadvertently hit the “stop recording” button while putting the phone down instead of “pause” and didn’t realize my error until later. That meant I didn’t record a few of the parade entries. I also, sadly, did not record any video of the post-parade rally (more on that later). So the above video should not be construed as a complete, comprehensive record of every entry. But you can notice from the video that there were indeed a bevy of LGBT-supportive sponsors (including contingents from the LGBT-friendly nightclubs here in Madison); other LGBT-supportive groups (did you catch the Mad Rollin’ Dolls skating past my spot?); the grandest-looking of drag performers and everyday-looking LGBTQA participants; a reference to and support of the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando two months earlier; a “Black Lives Matter” chant (bad behavior by some police toward minority groups is still a sore issue here in Madison, not to mention the generally complicit attitudes of our city’s police chief); and, this being an election year, a few entries supporting progressive-leaning political candidates, most prominently folks in support of a certain Democratic Party candidate for president as well as one for US Senate from Wisconsin (yeah, I didn’t see any entrants from the GOP, not that that should surprise you).
Which brings me to the editing part. I am an absolute novice when it comes to video editing, which made using the Movie Maker that’s a part of my laptop a somewhat confusing adventure. It took about two or three (maybe four?) tries and a few lessons learned (like the 16:9 video setting) to get to the finished product you see above. Speaking of Movie Maker, I’m glad it allowed me to add some of the still photos from the day to the video, which saves me from posting too much of them on Twitter or taking up too much file capacity on WordPress. But I will include a few extra photos below. Like this one of a parade volunteer who cheerfully agreed to pose for me:
Or this photo of a couple of queens who also graciously posed for my camera post-parade:
Or this image of the actual rally stage:
Speaking of the rally itself… as you may have noticed by the sign way at the top of this post (in English, Spanish, and even Hmong), the theme of this year’s event was “Pride is Inclusion: Marching Towards Racial Diversity.” The keynote speakers included those from minority ethnic groups who identify as LGBT, including a high school student who read a great speech from the stage. Yes, there were a couple of drag performances as well, backed by a DJ you can see under the banner in the above photo.
A couple of down notes about the event, and they’re not about the event itself, of course, but a couple of things on the peripheral. One was the coverage of the event from local media, namely the three news-gathering stations here in town. They seemed to latch on the aspect of the Pulse tragedy, seeking less about the diversity theme of the event and more of reactions like, “Yeah, violence against our community must be dealt with.” Don’t get me wrong: Violence and abuse of all kinds against the LGBT community is still an issue post-Pulse, and it’s good that an event like our parade/rally can be a way to remember those lost, to stay strong, and to uplift the LGBT spirit. But when watching the news post-parade news coverage that night, I felt a bit sad that the reporters, to use an idiom, couldn’t see the forest for the trees. It would’ve been nice to see at least a few seconds of reportage devoted to the theme of the event.
Unfortunately, that brings me to my second gripe about the parade/rally news coverage: The other side of the issue. One TV station here in town, in its “effort” to provide “fair and balanced” coverage (no, no, they’re actually the NBC affiliate in town), gave screen time to one protester, who identified himself only as “Bill” (too afraid to use your own last name on-screen, I presume?) and with his cohorts traveled from out-of-state(!) to Madison to carry the usual “God hates sin” type of signs and to bellow diatribes of homosexuality being wrong and preach their awful, truly hateful interpretation of “God’s love.” I was disgusted more about having the media give voice to these disgusting people than I was about them missing the diversity message. But while one reporter turned her camera in the wrong direction for the sake of being “fair and balanced,” at least there were those who drowned out the interlopers’ hateful message during the event, up to and including waiving rainbow flags to serve as a curtain between the protestors and the truly loving merriment of the rally a mere 200 feet or so away.
All in all, I had a great time at the parade and rally. It’s truly awesome to see any type of display of LGBT pride in our fair city. It’s a reminder that, though the LGBT community has made so many advancements while still facing many mountains made from molehills, we need to stay strong, stay proud, and stay in the fight. And staying strong and proud starts with being who you are, loving who you love, and showing your strength to the world. I can’t wait for next year’s Outreach parade and rally… when, hopefully, I may attend as my female side. If so, that would certainly be a day to remember.
(Oh, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out the Outreach Pride Parade & Rally website for more information about the event and images from this year’s edition. Their photos are truly remarkable and capture the essence of the event and its attendees.)