After the election last November, one of the most frequent questions I got was: “What was the best part of the campaign?” At first it always stumped me. How could I sum up the craziness of that year in one perfect anecdote? But the second or third time I got the question, the answer hit me – marching in the Boston Pride Parade with Barney Frank.
I will never forget that day. It wasn’t the unbelievable heat, or the hundreds of costumed supporters lining the streets, or the music and the flags – though those details helped define the day. It was watching people push past the sidewalk barriers and rush up to Barney with tears in their eyes. “Thank you, Congressman.” “Congressman, thank you.” “You changed my life.”
For three miles it was a constant chorus and, though he might not forgive me for saying it, the only thing more poignant than the tears in those people’s eyes were the tears that welled up in Congressman Frank’s by the last stretch.
I grew up in a family that believed the ultimate promise we make our people – enshrined in the first words on the first page of the first document that created these United States – is that they will be treated equally.
For my generation, the fight to protect that promise has been anchored in the LGBT community. Most of my peers have been raised in a world where sexual orientation isn’t how we define each other – where we worry less about the gender of who our friends choose to marry and more about whether that person makes them happy.
Given that, I hear rumblings about why we still celebrate Pride at all. If it’s not a big deal anymore, why continue to single out the LGBT community with such pomp and circumstance?
When I hear that, I tell them about marching with Congressman Frank. About how much it means to live in a country that pauses to remember the danger in taking civil rights for granted.
I tell them we’re not there yet; that too many people still live in the shadows, hidden from a society that struggles to fully accept them and a government whose policies ring of separate but equal.
This year, I’ll tell them one more thing. I’ll tell them about my friend Jason Collins. I’ll tell them that it was Pride – with all that pomp and circumstance – that encouraged him to come out and be proud of who he is.
Jason will march in the parade with me this year – a seven-foot tall, African-American, professional athlete in the midst of the costumes and colors and confetti. Hopefully, there will be people on the sidelines watching him the way he watched others last year; empowered and inspired not just by his participation but by the thousands of people flooding the streets of Boston to cheer him on. Maybe, those people will sign up to march themselves next year, just like Jason did. And that is why we celebrate Pride.