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soapbox: Pride in the Heartland

[A guest soapbox from Hope Berry Manley who recently relocated to Ohio from San Francisco.]

This weekend I went to my first Pride celebration....in Columbus, Ohio. I have been to many Pride celebrations, mostly in San Francisco where I just moved from. In the 14 years I lived in San Francisco, I missed one, or two, Pride weekends. I have also been to Pride in Atlanta, New York, San Diego, San Jose, and Washington DC. Each are unique, here is what I found special about Columbus.

The crowd was wonderfully diverse and full of women. Lesbian women. Women with mullets, athletic uniforms, young, and older. It was wonderful. There were men into bears, bands, chorus and clubs. There were drag-queens, and a few trans-folks. LGBT families abounded, the package of COLAGE literature I had went fast. The festival started at 11AM and I had personally exchanged all the newsletters I had for email addresses by Noon. There was a giant gated area for children, with day long activities, story-telling, music, wading pools and lots of shade. There were funny t-shirts "All I want is world peace, and a boyfriend" and the hottest seller, that simply read "01-20-09" which upon asking I found out is Bush's last day in office. There wasn't a Log Cabin Club member in sight!

The booths were run by people, not professionals. They weren't being paid to be there, they wanted to be there. They were very approachable and all conversations were started off on a first name basis and exchange of contact information. OK, OK there were a few corporations (all events need some sponsorship) but they were discreet, there were no advertisements of on the stage and they were mostly banks and insurance companies, things we all need right? Not tequila, vodka and gin. P-FLAG, youth groups, local churches (with lesbian ministers, and they weren't MCC!) and a democratic club were in the fore. It was the richest Pride experience I have had in years.

I have watched San Francisco Pride grow from a daylong celebration to a weekend celebration that spills over, to the days before and after. Leaving some reminder of it all year long. Kind of like fog or dry ice swirling, Pride is always swirling around at your feet in San Francisco. It is wonderful, but not so in Columbus. Pride is a one day, and abruptly, one day only event, with no local media coverage.

After a great day at Pride on Saturday, I found myself gardening in my backyard on Sunday. That was hard. I wanted more. I wanted the the fog to roll in and Pride to swirl around my feet and follow me home.


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