At least a couple of times on here, I’ve described some of the crazy dreams I’ve had, not the “I wanna see my name in lights” kind of dream but rather the “deep in peaceful slumber” and “so lucid it felt as if it was real life” kind. I had one of those very lucid dreams last weekend… but with some news this week, I’m wondering if it wasn’t so much a dream as it was a forecast of what was to come.
This dream — and I swear that this is how it went — started with yours truly suddenly discovering she had a lottery ticket in their hand. Which is strange in that I rarely play the lottery, not even a scratch-off ticket. The last time I did was one day the beginning of last August, when I plunked down a few bucks and chose a few numbers on behalf of a friend of mine and myself. (We didn’t match a single number that day. Not even 13.) And even in this dream, I was asking myself how I wound up with this ticket.
It wasn’t just any ticket, however. It was a winning ticket! A ginormous jackpot-winning ticket!
Naturally, the first thing one asks when having a winning lottery ticket is… What am I going to do with all this money?! Which may have been the reason why, when I started thinking of that question, I suddenly found myself in a fancy hotel room, the kind you’d find in one of those exotic high-roller resorts in Vegas that costs an arm, leg, and 10 grand per night (spacious living room, fireplace, balcony overlooking the city). Okay, I thought to myself, this is a start… but I haven’t even received the winnings yet. Heck, I haven’t even posed with that oversized ceremonial check a lottery winner’s supposed to get.
With that, I sat myself down on the comfy, oversized couch occupying that spacious, fancy hotel room in this dream, and I started thinking. In the real world, I’m a human of modest means, but it’s not like I don’t have thoughts on spending lottery winnings if I were to strike it rich. I could buy my first house. I could buy a brand new car, or at least finally get the repairs my old car desperately needs right now. Perhaps I could travel the world. Or I could just spend a little bit on myself and give my closest relatives a decent share…
Or, of course, I could also give it to those who are the most deserving in our community. And with that, I turn to the part of this dream that felt, in retrospect, like a harbinger: While I was sitting on that comfy couch, I suddenly heard a familiar voice, one belonging to a member of the CD/TG group I’m a part of here in Madison. “Allison!” this voice calls out to me.
At this point, I suddenly found myself in a park. It was a nice, sunny, late August afternoon, and I was on a bench surrounded by other members of our group. There were multitudes of other people with us as well, not to mention lots of rainbow-colored decorations. Everyone seems happy and welcoming.
At that very point, I realize three very important things: I’m in attendance at some sort of a LGBT pride event here in Madison, naturally with all those rainbows. And I’m dressed up as Allison! But I’m not entirely enjoying myself. Just then, a prominent part of our support group — I’ll call them G. for the sake of important later reference — suddenly sits down next to me, gives me a gentle, good-natured nudge with their elbow, and says…
[*TO BE CONTINUED*]
Yep, that was a cliffhanger. You don’t normally see cliffhangers in blogs, now do you? I’ll get back to that dream and what G. says to me a little further down. First, though, I want to pivot to some news from this past week. And, no, it’s not about a winning Powerball lottery ticket being sold here in Wisconsin. (No, I didn’t play; I didn’t even realize the jackpot was over $700 million.) Rather, it’s news that, in hindsight, set up the scene in that cliffhanger and made this dream a premonition:
Yes, that’s State Street in Downtown Madison. Yes, that’s the State Capitol in the distance. And, yes, that’s a pretty big LGBT+ pride flag being carried there. Add all that up and, yes, it’s a past image from the OutReach Pride Parade & Rally, which has been held… er, uh, was held every August since 2014.
Why the past tense in that paragraph? Well, let’s start by recalling the 2018 OutReach Pride Parade & Rally. As fun as it was — and for me at least, it was a fun time — it was plagued by controversy over the presence of law enforcement, in particular the Madison Police Department (MPD) not only having an entry in the parade but also providing security. Then there was the general disgust of those who are trans/queer people of color, who for valid reasons felt ignored and unsafe by the planned police presence. Their vociferous allies, who have disdain for the cops period, joined in on the criticism. It got so bad that there were actual plans to boycott the OutReach parade and stage a counter-event.
Luckily, mostly cooler heads prevailed. The parade organizers from OutReach, the LGBT community center in Madison, voted to withdraw the law enforcement contingents’ entries. Those in law enforcement were still present, either providing security in their MPD uniforms (as OutReach’s contract with the city required) or marching in plain clothes. No TQPOC-inspired counter-protest occurred. And the parade and subsequent rally went off without incident… though the stench of resentment remained in the air.
The controversy over the 2018 OutReach Pride Parade seemed to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. It certainly seemed to leave OutReach’s executive director shellshocked. But kudos to OutReach for wanting to stage another pride parade in 2019, and do so again on State Street. However, there was one roadblock after another, thanks to both the MPD and the City of Madison. How so? Well, Our Lives Magazine so succinctly counted the ways in this article:
- First, OutReach had to deal with a new MPD representative on the city’s Street Use Committee, a police liaison to the LGBT+ community who has a history of not being entirely sympathetic to our community, or at least OutReach’s efforts to stage a pride parade.
- Said MPD rep wanted to designate the parade a “District event.” I don’t know what the hell that means, but it would have as much as tripled the number of officers providing security at the parade. Both moves would have meant drastically increasing the security costs that would be passed on to OutReach, a non-profit organization that already has enough financial things to deal with, thank you very much.
- Then there’s the City of Madison putting restrictions on parades and other events that occupy the streets in the downtown core. Just this week, the City Council approved changes that would put restrictions on events such as Crazylegs Classic, the Maxwell Street Days shopping event, and parades such as OutReach Pride that require street closures… which in turn disrupts transit and emergency services. (Side note: City-sponsored events wouldn’t be affected. And OutReach Pride is not city-sponsored. Yes, the city is playing favorites.)
- Speaking of transportation, the City put up this ridiculous block: State Street has been a primarily pedestrian thoroughfare since the mid-1970s; the only vehicles allowed are emergency vehicles, buses, and bikes. But pedestrians must still yield to cross traffic, especially at three prominent intersections controlled by traffic lights. In past State Street parades of all sorts, the intersections were blocked and traffic was either rerouted or had to wait. This year, the City wouldn’t allow the OutReach Pride Parade a permit if it wouldn’t yield to the cross traffic like any run-of-the-mill State Street pedestrian. Really?!
- Plus, the City wanted the parade to be downsized by about a third, not only so that it could yield to those street lights but also to reduce the use of State Street as a parade staging area. They can’t see that the bigger the parade, the better it is.
- Oh, and in a move that makes even less sense than making a parade yield to traffic, the City wanted the parade to be moved out of its usual spot on the calendar, which has been on or around the third Sunday in August (in 2019, August 18); it was meant to avoid conflicts with the “moving season” of university students, whose apartment leases begin and end on August 15. But OutReach Pride has been on that same weekend every year, and it’s never disrupted any student’s move.
Considering all these roadblocks — logistical, financial, and “Are you [expletive deleted] serious?!” — erected by the city and its police department, it’s not surprising that this past Wednesday, OutReach announced that they would not stage their parade and rally downtown this coming August 18. However, OutReach will be changing tack and instead put its resources toward another event that very same day — the “OutReach Magic Festival.” (The “Magic” name is a nod to a Madison pride event from decades ago called “MAGIC Picnic.”)
Leave it up to OutReach’s powers that be to naturally look on the bright side: There will still be a pride event in Madison to recognize the golden anniversary of the Stonewall riots. There will still be the music and activities similar to the post-parade rallies of recent years past. It will be geared toward fostering interaction among the many diverse groups within the broad LGBT+ community than a parade could allow. And it will hopefully let our community heal after the controversy of 2018. Oh, and of course it will cost OutReach a lot less to put on a festival than a parade, not to mention dodge the logistical mountains the City and MPD erected. (Side note: The festival will be hiring private security as its permit allows. Fare thee well, Five-O.)
For sure, some of the reaction to OutReach’s decision has been positive. In one comment that I saw, the commentor felt that the festival would allow OutReach to use that extra money to support causes and organizations that benefit LGBT+ people, allies, and the community as a whole. Another comment I saw reasoned that this change wouldn’t have happened if the City had stepped up and at least offered sponsorship while taking responsibility for their actions at the event. And, of course, there are the snide remarks from a few people who said OutReach got what they deserved after the “debacle” (their term) of 2018.
But the news of there not being a parade in 2019 left me quite sad for many reasons. First off, OutReach Magic Festival will be held in a relatively way-out-of-the-way location, Warner Park, on the city’s far northeast side. At a time when the LGBT+ community is again feeling legal and cultural brushbacks, this feels like being put into a pen in a backyard in the countryside. Do all you want, the City of Madison is seemingly saying, but don’t venture outside that fence. That’s dehumanizing to everyone in the LGBT+ community regardless of our skin color, gender, or ethnic identity. (Side note: OutReach did try to reserve another park in Madison, Brittingham Park, which is much closer to downtown and is right next to Lake Monona. The City turned down their request.)
But there’s also the power that a parade would still provide, and actually still provides when you think of it. A pride parade gives a feeling of our community “taking it to the streets,” showing our pride and power and positive image toward a world that either does not know us or outwardly disdains us. Doing so on one of Madison’s most iconic and prominent boulevards, State Street, was the delicious icing on the cake.
And then there’s the personal power of being in a pride parade. I had the pleasure of getting all dolled up and marching as Allison in both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the OutReach Pride Parade. They were uplifting experiences, not just because I was marching with my support group and other members of our community, but because my femme side was being accepted, or at least respected, by the bystanders that lined the parade route. For a crossdresser who has ventured out en femme before and since, but still generally considers herself closeted, the parade will always be a high water mark in my life.
Now, I’m not blind to the possibility that OutReach Magic Festival may very well be a success, as other non-parade LGBT festivals in, say, Milwaukee and Green Bay have been. And I also hope along with its organizers that this becomes the diversity builder we need right now. Still, however, this change feels as if it’s a step backward and won’t have the attraction and power a parade could provide. My blame goes not to OutReach (they did what they had to do) but to the City of Madison for putting up so many barricades that will only ruin its downtown core, both as a major event hub and a business avenue. Know that businesses feel the positive residuals of a nearby big event (Pride Day or otherwise), as well as the negative effects when an event vanishes.
Again, OutReach shouldn’t be shamed for the change from a parade to a festival. And with that, I redirect you to the significance of G. They’re the person who was about to sit down with me in that dream. They’re also… let’s just say they’re a prominent part of both our CD/TG group as well as OutReach. This allowed G. to clue our group in on OutReach’s event plans, including pride parades. G. was also the one who warned us, mostly in passing, of the real possibility that a pride parade wouldn’t be happening in 2019. I recall one time very recently when we suggested about things our group could due for the pride parade, to which G. responded almost dismissively, “There won’t be a pride parade.” Which left most of us — well, mostly me — with a “Say it ain’t so” feeling on our faces and in our minds. Please, G., really say it ain’t so.
But, yeah, it turns out that it was so. Which leads me back to my dream. Oh, yeah, that’s right! This post was originally about a dream I had last weekend, wasn’t it? To recap — and again, I swear that this is how this dream played out — I had just won the lottery, was pondering about what I should do with those winnings, and found myself at this pride-like event late one Sunday afternoon. I should note that the park this event was in was… wait for it… Warner Park, where OutReach Magic Festival will be taking place this coming August. (It’s true, I swear to you, the setting in my dream was Warner Park!)
So, here I am at Warner Park, all dressed up as Allison, and rainbow colors and happy people are all around. But I don’t quite share that joyous feeling. And that’s when G. sits down next to me and nudges me on the upper arm. I look up and give a forced smile in response. G. sees my smile and tells me this:
“See? This day isn’t all that bad… all things considered.”
I couldn’t tell if G. was misinterpreting my forced smile, or if they were looking inside me somehow and see some sort of joviality. Maybe it was both. Maybe my day wasn’t indeed all that bad, just that I was more joyous earlier in the day but became tired by that point. Still, I did have the feeling then that this pride day hadn’t been as fun for me as it had been in the real-life past.
That’s when I look back down and realize that I’ve been hanging on to that winning lottery ticket. Yikes! I think to myself. I still don’t know where all this money should go. But then I pick my head back up, see the party surrounding me, and… wake up from my dream.
It’s true, it was just a dream. No, I’ll never have a hundred thousand dollars to my name, let alone a hundred million. But if I ever do win the lottery, I know I’d want to donate some of that newfound cash to the LGBT+ community in Madison. And I hope that they could use at least some of that dough to put on a pride event that will blow everyone’s mind. Perhaps even a parade. Nay, hopefully a parade.
I know that all the money in the world can’t guarantee that a pride parade will ever again take place in Madison, especially with the current city leadership and the logistical roadblocks they’ve erected. But if a pride parade ever does take place again, may it indeed be the biggest Madison has ever seen. We still need to “take it to the streets” and show the city and the world that we’re out and proud, and that no government bureaucracy, municipal or otherwise, will ever shove us back into the closet again.