By Dane Steele Green
2015 will go down in history as pivotal for the LGBTQ community, and the fact that the verdict of Obergefell v. Hodges came just days before the June 28 anniversary of the Stonewall Riots made this year’s pride events a collection party for the ages.
And who says the party has to end? Take a look at any Pride calendar and you’ll quickly find out that Pride is a year-round event. There are a lot of reasons a Pride is held on a date other than the last Sunday in June. For the southern hemisphere, that’s the dead of winter. In the United States, some cities, like Philadelphia, had their own gay protests independent of the Stonewall, and so commemorate those dates. Others are more practical: The American Southwest is far too hot in summer to have a parade.
Even now, cities across the country are gearing up for their own takes on Pride, and a few are bona fide showstoppers. I’ve been to four that are worth sloppy seconds:
Worcester, MA: September 9 – 12
The somewhat more normal next-door neighbor of Boston and Provincetown, Worcester knows it is not a major destination and to its credit, does not try to be. Instead, Worcester Pride is a local affair, and along the way shrewdly taps a growing niche market within the gay community: families.
Let’s be honest: a Pride march can be…um, “sexually charged,” shall we say. It’s all about men and women embracing their sexuality and putting it out there for all the world to see. All find and good, and with a very good reason to boot — but it might not be the tableau for a four-year-old. It’s the nasty secret of LGBTQ life: come what may, it is incredibly adult-focused.
“With kids” gay travel is probably the next big thing to sweep the travel biz, so Worcester is actually ahead of the curve on this one. It isn’t to say that Worcester is as pure as the Alvin & the Chipmunks, but the city is a good example of IDing an underserved segment of the LGBTQ population and embracing it.
Las Vegas, NV: September 18 – 19
You would have to be insane to throw a three-day Pride event in the middle of the summer in a desert. Even the most ardent of activists bow their heads to 100° F and above temperatures.
While Vegas will probably always be the City That Straight Male Fantasy Made, in recent years, it has made a concerted effort to raise its profile among gay travelers. The result is arguably the biggest late-year Pride celebration in the country. Or at least, the showiest (which makes sense).
Contrary to popular belief, Sin City is a very gay friendly town; the casinos practically fell over themselves to contribute to the city’s sparkling gay and lesbian community center, and all the iniquity had the odd side effect of making Las Vegas one of the least judgmental places in the country. Vegas Pride builds on standing events, and embraces a few local traditions like a good ol’ Vegas-style pool party. The Luxor (can miss it; it’s the big, black pyramid) regularly hosts a gay pool party, and it was a no-brainer to incorporate it into the festivities.
Most unusual is that the Pride Parade — in downtown, rather than on The Strip, alas! — takes place at night (the body glitter will get max effect), and instead of being the bookend to a Pride, it kicks things off.
Dallas, TX: September 20
You would think that Dallas would hold its pride in September to avoid the city’s oppressive summer humidity, but not so! The third Sunday in September commemorates Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer’s ruling that first negated the Texas sodomy law (That judge’s was infamously overturned later by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the parade remained an autumn event).
In a state as GOP-red as Texas, it may come as a surprise that Dallas is as blue as it is, and that it’s gay population as active and thriving. Oh, sure — there is a lot more line dancing and BBQ than, say, New York or Miami, but a Pride is a Pride. This is a great example of how the gay experience varies from region to region and even city to city.
Like Worcester, Dallas makes of point of highlighting same-sex families, a step in the normalization of LGBTQs in the South that still has a long way to go, Supreme Court cases be damned. And like Worcester, Dallas tends to be a insular–as its date hints, Pride celebrates local legends over national or even international people and events. The parade, technically the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade is named after the legendary man who organized it from its inception. Ross sadly passed away in 1995, well before gays and lesbians could even hope to say they were equal citizens, but thanks regional fighters like him, LGBTQs found their national voice.
Palm Springs, CA: November 6 – 8
Palm Springs Pride is the end-of-the-year capstone to (and not to be confused with) the city’s more famous — some would say infamous — White Party held in April. Astute travelers will notice how summer is conspicuously avoided; while there are actual springs in Palm Springs, and seasonal streams running down from the San Jacinto Mountains, things are so hot from May to September that the city sprays water in a fine mist during the hottest days so pedestrians don’t die of heat stroke. That, by the way, is no understatement: step outside the city limits and you will see just how far into the Sonoran Desert Palm Springs lies.
But as an FYI, perhaps because the White Party maxes the city’s party reserves to the full, Palm Springs Prides tends to come off as a genuine Pride event. While there is still a parade and festival, PSPride puts the movers and shakers in the local and international gay community in the spotlight.
For people in the region, you can actually have a near non-stop experience: Long Beach, Los Angeles, and several other municipalities have Pride events in the summer before Palm Springs. All within driving distance, the various parties and parades make something of a de facto circuit party of Pride days.
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