Last weekend I went to the Fremont Solstice parade. This week was the Seattle Pride parade. These are both long running civic institutions. This was the first time that I went to see both of them in the same year.
The Solstice is a lot more anarchic. It has a whole seat of the pants feel of a parade put on by local community organizers. The Seattle Pride is a thing. It is huge. There was an order of magnitude more people watching (I saw an estimate of half a million).
The Solstice parade bans motorized vehicles, anything with letters, and starts with a bunch of naked bicyclists. The Seattle Pride has massive corporate sponsorship, there were several companies, unions, political leaders, public services, and Native American tribes proudly proclaiming who they were and their support of the gay community.
Instead of naked bike riders, the Pride parade starts with Dykes on Bikes, several hundred mostly women cruising in loops on motorcycles. Most of them rode Harleys and they were making full use of the Harley’s throaty roar. If you’re looking for a clear example of the power of the gay movement, look nothing further than a couple of hundred Harleys proudly gunning up and down at the head of the parade being watched and cheered by a half a million people.
After the Dykes on Bikes, a gay couple just married (by Seattle’s gay mayor at the start of the parade) drove by poised on a large wedding cake float. They were in turn followed by a group of Boy Scouts. They were in turn followed by the drag queens of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. They were in turned followed by a huge T-Mobile corporate group.
I’ve finally gotten to the point in my life where I can tell old fogey stories. When I see something what I’ve just described and then think back to my childhood, words kind of fail me to describe the changes that I’ve witnessed in my life. Obviously, it’s an ongoing process and there are so many things to work on, but every now and then it’s kind of crazy to take a look back and think how things once were.
The level of corporate participation is pretty amazing. It’s pretty clear that corporations recognize that getting on the right side of this issue is very good for their bottom line. Gay people spend money (obviously!) and, at least in Seattle, being seen as a progressive corporation has a real impact on their image.
For example, Delta Airlines not only had a huge contingent, but there were several flamboyant drag queens dressed up as flight attendants. In fact, many of the corporate entrants featured drag. I’m guessing that the drag queen community was fully employed today. The BECU float featured a band playing disco songs with the lead singer in scanty leather and chains.
Several of the software companies were represented. Instagram had a tiny contingent that looked like they just pulled random people who might have been working today. Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia had huge groups wearing color coordinated outfits. The company that might have had the largest stretch with trying to line their corporate image up with the parade was Tableau, who is known for business analytics software. Their slogan today was “Data Pride”.
Sports were also represented. Although there was a group with the Seattle Reign, I saw no players. Perhaps they are on the road today. There was a group from the Seattle Quake Rugby Football Club, which I had never heard of but is a predominantly gay men rugby team. There was a group of women from the Seattle Majestics football team. This was another team that I had not heard of. Apparently there is a Northwest league of 11 on 11 women’s tackle football. Before you think of mocking, they were throwing the football around as they were walking / driving on the parade route. I’m guessing at least 90% of the men on the route could only hope to throw and catch as well as they were.
Even now, after all of these years, there are still a couple of slightly edgy groups still maintaining their place in the parade. There were the Seattle Men of Leather, Women of Leather, and Girls of Leather. I think these are fairly descriptive terms. There were dominants leading their submissives on leashes. There was a guy with a leather whip cracking it at the audience. There were many men wearing leather masks and in some cases, little else. There were a number of furries dressed in their favorite animal costume.
I saw two parade balloons. One was an Alaska Airlines plane. The other was a Chipotle Burrito. When you order a real burrito with extra meat, it looks about that big.
The mayor was there. The governor was there. Several politicians and judges running for office were there. There was a massive contingent walking for Bernie. Apparently Seattle has not given up on the Bern yet.
My favorite thing about the Pride parade is that it is such a basically joyous occasion. Quite literally everyone (well except maybe the guy carrying the Jesus Saves sign) just seems happy. It is such a warm, inviting event. I can’t help but to leave it feeling that there is hope in our future. It’s the main reason that I try to make a point of attending.