My family and I spent last weekend in San Francisco. Saturday night we ate in a fantastic restaurant in the financial district (Barbacco Eno Trattoria – San Francisco Restaurant). From beginning to end this place knocked it out of the park. The food was amazing. Despite that, I did think it was a bit pretentious; as we walked into the uptown chic trattoria, we were handed an iPad to peruse the electronic wine list. (My daughter thought that was the coolest thing she had ever seen). And after being seated, we were greeted by a casually arrogant and tousled young hipster who informed us, in a mumbled hush so full of disdain it was nearly palpable, that it would be his honor to serve us. The irony was not lost on us. He also delighted in saying things like, “excellent choice” and “certainly, sir.” We spent most of the night trying to decide whether he was being serious or if we were being Punked. Needless to say we had a great time.
We also spent an afternoon exploring the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate park (California Academy of Sciences – San Francisco Museum and Planetarium – Bay Area Natural History Museumin). They’d been advertising a new exhibit called Extreme Mammals and my daughter was excited to see it. Unfortunately, it ended up being an extreme jip.
What wasn’t an extreme jip, however, was the Gay Pride Parade that we accidentally stumbled onto Sunday morning.
But, was our daughter old enough? What exactly is the appropriate age for your first sighting of ass-less chaps? How much mesh and studded leather can one teen take? We decided it was worth the risk. The good cause we’d be supporting would balance out whatever craziness she might see.
And so we went. We grabbed the camera and headed down to Market St.
Despite the rainbow flags that were flying in every direction and the vibrant rainbow clothing everyone was wearing, I was surprised by how thin the crowd was. There were plenty of people, but it wasn’t the mob scene I’d expected.
There weren’t even any protesters, except for this guy, who passed in front of us as we crossed to the edge of the street. I watched him as he silently trudged up and down the sidewalk, carrying his sign all by himself. Eventually I lost sight of him. I spent a few minutes wondering how it would go, how far he might push it.
But then the parade was starting, the thundering roar of approaching motorcycles coming closer, and he was gone, lost in the crowd of supporters, his Jesus sign invisible behind all the fluttering rainbow banners in the air.
We quickly found a spot on the edge of the street and waited, anxious for the glorious spectacle to come. I mean, hello. This wasn’t just a parade after all, but a Gay Parade. I expected a show.
Dykes on Bikes were first, and they were fun. Lots of couples, of all ages, rode by. Some were on Harleys, just as butch as can be, and some looked like the elementary school librarian and her best friend were on their way home from afternoon tea on a little scooter. (P.S.-that’s because it probably was the elementary school librarian and her best friend). Some were in outrageous outfits (my favorite was the couple dressed as a bride and groom) and some were not.
But as they went past and the parade continued, I began to realize that there was nothing to worry about for my daughter. Everyone was pretty tame. Well, except for this guy, who nearly gave her a seizure as he rode by completely nude.
(How about the mad skills it took for my husband to snap this shot? NICE.)
But no one was making out or being in your face. We didn’t even see one pair of chaps all day. Go figure. Of course there were costumes (there seemed to be a conservative Southern Belle theme that afternoon), and provocative chants like:
But mostly it was a celebration. And much more of a family event than I’d expected. There were men and women with little kids on their shoulders standing next to gay couples, all mixed in with hetero couples like us. It was all pretty diverse. And it worked.
There were tons of cool groups in the parade, including a bunch of giant motorized cupcakes that circled and swirled as they rode by.
But one of the best was a float I saw near the end. As it passed I noticed an older woman with her arm around a very handsome young man. She was beaming, just smiling and waving a sign that said, “Proud Mom.” Nice.
And then came my favorite: the Prop 8 peeps. For the first time all day the hoots and cheers coming from the crowd were drowned out by an uproarious applause. Countless couples marched past, triumphantly holding hands and walking by, fighting for something the rest of us take for granted everyday. The simple right to marry.
The whole day was fun, the atmosphere jubilant and free, full of people enjoying the right to be themselves and to love whoever they want. In fact, it was all pretty gay.
Check out S.F. Gay Pride Parade 2010 Photos – SFist for more pics. I think our favorite old man even made one of the shots.
As we were driving back to Sac later that afternoon, I asked my daughter what she thought of the whole thing. She was still pretty bitter about the nude guy, but overall she thought it was pretty cool. As for him, all she said was, “That guy was gross. Isn’t that illegal? And I don’t even get it. What’s that got to do with gay pride, anyway?”
It’s a good question. I have lots of gay friends and I’ve never seen them nude.
I was proud of her. In fact, I was proud all the way around. I was proud that my family and I had been there to support the gay community, even in such a very small way. I was proud of the members of the SFPD who stood up in uniform and walked with their partners. I was proud that everyone had behaved and that it had turned out to be a real family event for so many. And I was proud of the progress that we’ve made on the whole. After 40 years of marching, things are still far from perfect, but I’d like to think that the crowd was thin on Sunday because people are finally starting to realize that it’s just not such a big deal to be gay. Duh.