The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Our First Prides

Happy Pride indeed! With marriage legal across the country, this Pride is going to be the most festive ever! NYC, San Fransisco and Toronto are about to have their big Pride celebrations this weekend, and cities like LA, Chicago and Detroit have already had theirs. What was your first Pride experience like? 

New York Holds Annual Gay Pride March

Trish Bendix: I’ll never forget my first Pride because it’s one of the first and last times I saw a full-on drag king show. The Chicago Kings (RIP) performed at a lesbian party at Circuit in Boystown, and one of their acts was Harry Potter-themed to “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Then they asked for volunteers to come on stage and my very drunk friend decided to participate. It turned out to be an eating contest, and they put her in a garbage bag before asking her to shove as many hot dogs and marshmallows inside of her as fast as she could. Well she won….but not long after, I was outside helping her to get it all out. The plastic bag came in handy but everything was so, so sticky, like it wasn’t enough in the Chicago summer heat! Nonetheless, it was my first time ever going to anything so gay, and my first Pride parade was that weekend, too. I cried when I saw the gay cops and PFLAG parents. 
 
Emily McGaughy: My first Pride was in 2007 and, oddly enough, a few months prior to my coming out. When I moved to Dallas in 2006, I became close friends with a group of gay men and their token lesbian who we lovingly call “Butch Kim.”  The very gay church we attended together marched in the Pride parade every year. Kim and I decided to join and had a blast. It was actually a moving experience to be a part of as the lesbian pastor impressed upon us the importance of what Pride really means. And I had never seen so many LGBTs celebrating together in one place. LGBT Pride in larger cities these days is often a far cry from its original intention, in my opinion: lots of big corporations funding an overly commercialized drunk fest and many attendees being completely unaware of what happened at Stonewall. But my first Pride was definitely an exception to that; being a part of the parade itself is a wonderful memory. And I really think it was part of what showed me that, when I was ready to come out, I’d have a community that would embrace me.
 
Caitlin Bergh: My first Pride happened to me before I had come out and before I even knew what Pride was. I was wandering down the streets of NYC when a bunch of oily, toned butts on floats assaulted my face. Horrified by my own inner secret gay, I allowed myself to stare at the butts only for a moment before fleeing the scene. Unfortunately, “the scene” was not flee-able. Every turn I took, there was more parade. I was trapped on all sides by the winding gayness—just like i was trapped, inside, by my own winding gayness (gasp). For the rest of the scorching afternoon, I was forced to stand on the sidewalk with a bunch of strangers, staring at the sea of rainbows while panicking and sweating.
 
Lianna Carrera: My first Pride was in high school and spent (fittingly enough) with my P.E. teacher. We ran into each other at DC Pride and I thought I was soooooooo cooool hanging out with a bunch of older lesbians PE teachers who had access to things like cones and footballs and whistles and also lesbians that did not have things like rainbow braces on their teeth that matched mine. I bought a shirt that said, “Dip Me in Chocolate and Feed Me to the Lesbians!” I never ever wore it. It stayed hidden in its plastic wrap at the bottom of my t-shirt drawer until I came out of the closet. Even then I still never wore it because WHY did I BUY that T-SHIRT?
 
 
Lucy Hallowell: I have also never been to a Pride thing. I am not sure how or why that happened but it probably has something to do with the fact that I hate crowds and am only lukewarm on people in general.
 
 Grace Chu: I went with some law school buddies to the NYC Pride march and sat in the sweltering heat watching impossibly toned guys dance on exquisitely decorated floats emblazoned with corporate logos. Wait—didn’t this march arise from a riot between street kids and the police? Also, beside the dykes on bikes, nary a lady was to be seen. I was drinking copious amounts of bottled water. It turned out to be too much bottled water. This was me trying to get through the crowd to find a restroom:
 
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Ever since then I’ve avoided the march and have gone unfashionably early to various lesbian parties to avoid lines, because 1. girrl power and 2. momma’s got a small bladder.
 
Erin Faith Wilson: My first pride was in Lansing, Michigan and it was amazing. I had never been around that many gay people all at the same time so most of the day you would find me staring at people for a little too long and they thought I either wanted to fight them, or make out with them. I was the awkward newbie and I did not even care. We spent the afternoon at a gay dive bar called the 505 (R.I.P.) and danced the day/night away. I remember feeling the most free I had ever felt since I had come out. It is still one of my most favorite gay days thus far. 
 
Dana Piccoli: My first Pride was also in Lansing, and I remember feeling so empowered standing near the steps of the capital. However, NYC Pride 2012 was my first ever Pride on a float and it was incredible! I was part of the Swish float, and my wife and I were recently married. We danced and waved and cried at the huge crowds gathered. It was a once in a lifetime thrill.
 
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Bridget McManus: I celebrated my first Pride with my college girlfriend and her mother in Pawtucket, RI. It was the most adorable parade with six floats gliding down a tiny street. My gf’s mother kept running back and forth to the floats grabbing Mardi Gras beads and bringing them to us because we were both shy. Ah, memories. 
 
Eboni Rafus: My first Pride was the summer of 2009 in Seattle while I was interning for Three Dollar Bill Cinema, the producers of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. I had been out for a little over two years but I hadn’t ever been to a Pride celebration before and I was super excited. I met my then-girlfriend and her friends for brunch before heading to the parade route and  enthusiastically handed out rainbow beads and flags that I had purchased in Northampton before I left for Seattle. My GF and her friends laughed at me for being such a newbie, but I didn’t care. I loved every minute of that parade. Afterwards, my gf ditched me while I was working at the Three Dollar Bill booth to go drinking in Capitol Hill. By the time I met up with them, she was drunk and I had to help get her home to the U district where she promptly passed out. And yet, it was still an awesome day for me and probably my favorite Pride experience to date. 

 

Dara Nai: I’m from New York/New Jersey, so natch, my first Pride was the massive New York City Pride Parade. A bunch of us went in early to pre-game at an apartment on Jones Street, hosted by some woman who used to date Diana Nyad. After we filled up on bagels and Bloodys, we plowed our way through the growing mob towards Christopher Street and found a good viewing spot. What followed was an endless (and I mean endless) procession of dykes on bikes who didn’t give two shits if you gawked at their bare, heaving boobs, ripped gay guys who gave every shit that you admire their abs, six-foot drag queens, tiny moms from PFLAG, and every overly specific community on earth including the Gay Disabled Pacific Islanders of Flushing. Everywhere you looked, gay, lesbian and bi people were sweating, jubilant and energized—a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Then, as we entered into the 187th hour of the parade, a bunch of leather daddies marched past us carrying their S&M club sign. My friend Greg saw a big guy, wearing nothing but a leather cod piece, holding up one side of the banner. He gasped, froze, and finally said, “Holy shit! That’s my boss!” Awesome.
 
Valerie Anne: My first pride was NYC Pride 2010 and I was freshly out, so I didn’t have anyone to go with. But I was determined to go, so I volunteered for the HRC booth so I’d have a reason to be there and also maybe meet some people. I was painfully shy, and while I ended up enjoying talking to strangers more than I thought, it was a relatively chill day and I didn’t end up making any lasting connections. Plus I didn’t end up seeing any of the actual parade, since I was in the booth the whole time. The next year, my loud and boisterous cousins (who happen to be sisters who are both queer) came into the city to go to the parade, and it was a totally different experience. The shouting and the laughing and the singing and the swag and the chatting with strangers was just so freaking wonderful. I still didn’t have many gay friends in the city at that point (it was pre-AE, so I was still in my straight-friend bubble), I remember being so overwhelmed with joy knowing that all of these people believed that love is love. I remember loving the experience of everyone being assumed queer until proven otherwise instead of the other way around. And I know it sounds goofy but I could feel the PRIDE. Everyone was just so proud of who they were and open and just being their true selves, turned up to 100 and covered in glitter. (Also there was some kind of LGBT medieval float and a maiden fair told me I was beautiful so THAT was pretty exciting for my baby-gay self.)  I look forward to the parade every year now, and get louder on that day than I do on all the other days combined. 
 
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Kim Hoffman: I was living in Chicago in 2010 and had just come out (a theme I’m noticing here in AE land and beyond, which I love). My cousin Andrew wanted to meet up with me. We hadn’t seen each other since we were little babies, so, in many ways, we were going to be meeting each other for the first real time. I walked to the parade from my apartment and instantly saw him in the crowd, shirtless with bedazzled nipples and a feather boa. The whole time we were proudly telling everyone around us that we were family and we were just meeting each other, and each shot of warm booze from the mash of bottles people had stuffed in their bags was another “cheers” to me coming out. Whoa. Forget bachelorette parties and 21st birthdays—when you come out a month before Pride, you’re the girl with the most cake.
 
Well, one of Andrew’s friends, who happened to be there with her girlfriend (pop up video fact: they had each other’s FULL names tattooed on their hips—they broke up soon thereafter) was being suddenly flirty with me only after her girlfriend puked and was out of commission. A cluster of us were trying to make our way away from the parade after it ended, so we all decide to hold hands or link arms to get through the crowd. The girl grabs my hand and begins MASSAGING IT, as her groggy, sun-drunk girlfriend lags behind her with her eyes half open. She’s giving her girl a light smack on the ass while eyeballing me—seeking signs she’s impressed me, no doubt. I beelined it home and logged into Skype with one eye open to talk to a girl I had been “talking to”—she had just traveled overseas with the army and would essentially become my first-ever girlfriend, which I more or less asked her to be a part of that day—though I only remember that because she filled me in with my Drunk Pride asking-out the next day.
 
Anna Pulley: I wrote about my first pride on my MySpace page, obvs. I was 22 and in Chicago and fond of the word “variegated,” apparently:

Sunday was the 37th annual Pride parade. I came there virginal and sober, but quickly lost any and all vestiges of shame and was soon drinking Bacardi out of a woman’s cleavage who was dressed like a jester, and elbowing people for plastic beads from half-naked go-go dancers (sponsored by Bud Light). Some of the kids from the school I worked at marched and I screamed and almost ran out to hug them all. But the cops on horseback prevented that. As this was my first pride, I really had no idea what to expect. Topless girls wore nothing but black electrical tape on their nipples, danced to Paula Abdul and doused themselves with 40oz Miller Lite cans. Leather daddies in assless chaps and rollerblades teased the cops who were patrolling the sidewalks. The Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps gyrated wildly (in formation) with painted rifles butting against their fatigues. Countless politicians, most of whom waved from their armored vehicles, threw refrigerator magnets with their names on them. I was fairly disappointed by the corporatization of the parade, but I’m happy at least that groups like the Chicago Women in Trade got their 15 minutes, even if they were wedged between a gigantic floating Chipotle burrito and a Bank of America RV. I’d be lying, however, if I said I didn’t flail my arms wildly and scream like a banshee with amoebic dysentery when the Illinois Lottery float started throwing cheap, plastic dice necklaces at the crowd. I will never again make fun of people who go to Mardi Gras parties. I’m privy now, to the lure of colorful things on strings.

At the after party, we paid $12 to stand in the parking lot behind Ann Sather’s with little cups of $4 Miller Lite and fans made from politician’s slogans, which we used to paddle unsuspecting passersby. It was great to see so many people out, upwards of 450,000 people, and the affection levels were out of control. Everybody loved everybody—I’ve never seen that kind of intensity before (not even at last call in karaoke bars). It seemed like we really did break down walls, even if just for a few hours, to embrace diversity in its variegated and fabulous mediums. Or, maybe I was tanked. The point is it was a blast—and I have the beads to prove it. 

Los Angeles Holds Annual Gay Pride Parade

Chloe: Overwhelming. I don’t really like parades but I spent a lot of time getting really drunk at parades, unable to shake the feeling that everyone was having much more fun than me. My first pride was LA pride, after I’d moved to Hollywood at 22 from New Orleans and gleefully throwing myself into meeting all the lesbians. Pride seemed like a continuation of all that forced merriment, with mandatory holiday cheer and a dash of minority self-righteousness. 

 
Chelsea: My first pride was so many things: I had recently come out, and I was dating my soon-to-be first girlfriend. I remember being overwhelmed: there was so much to see/do/drink! I also remember being packed into some club with barely enough room to move, let alone dance. And as a babygay, it was very exciting to meet my favorite vloggers from AfterEllen (this was before I worked for them, obvs). Ugh, was I ever so young?!
 
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What was your first Pride like?