June 29, 2011
I had a blog written over a month ago to submit for Pride here on TheBody.com. It described how I was a part of a group of LGBTQ Black college students who decided to go to Washington, D.C., for the Memorial Holiday weekend back in 1989. Then it was a few small gatherings of the "children," and we carried on for filth. At that time I was still so closeted but felt safe with a group of men I called my friends from Florida A&M University. I had no idea nor did we plan for what that holiday would turn out to be years later.
Then I rewrote my piece to share with you all my experience of watching my first Pride parade. I was in New York City. I watched in amazement as thousands of people marched and rode on floats for miles down the middle of Manhattan. This was in 1996; I was already diagnosed with HIV but still in a mental space of bondage. I was married, and my son was almost 3 years old. I ended up at the Pride celebration because several members of the gay/bisexual men HIV support group which I attended dragged me across the bridge from New Jersey. I stood there watching float after float and group after group thinking, "How brave these people are." When I first heard about a Pride parade and festival I could never imagine myself participating in any way. And here I am standing on the sidewalk cheering for everyone who passed.
It was in early June of this year when I was watching LOGO and a documentary film titled The Politics of Pride was aired. It was then that I realized that PRIDE, Promoting Respect Individuality Diversity Equality, involved a great deal more than marching. Pride in the U.S. used to be about the LGBTQ right to assemble and express ourselves just like everyone else. Pride was a tool to effect change in local communities across this country. Those politics became an example to the world LGBTQ community. It became an example of the struggle for human rights.
We, in this country, may have long forgotten that political battle. However this battle is paramount in the West Indies, parts of Europe, Asia or in Africa where homosexuality is illegal and carries a penalty of imprisonment. In these countries, having masses of police lining the parade is not for traffic control, but for the protection of Pride participants.
Pride for me is about FREEDOM. This Freedom allows me to be who I am and express myself how I choose. A freedom I found late in my life. It wasn't until 2009 that I marched in a Pride parade. I found my freedom and led the first group to follow the Grand Marshal in Pittsburgh Pride. This year I lent my voice to the Augusta Georgia PSA. Yes, I am late to the party, but I am here now!
Read more of Freedom Rider, Khafre's blog, at TheBody.com.
This article originally appeared in TheBody.com's Pride 2011 special section.