Pride in 2023


The Atlanta Pride parade 2004. Photo by me, June 2004.

I am standing at the corner of 10th and Peachtree streets on a Sunday in June 2004. This is my regular spot to watch the annual Atlanta Pride parade. I prefer this spot as the parade slows to make the right turn on 10th as it heads to Piedmont Park. I can have a longer look from here at the marchers, clap, cheer them on, watch the men and snap photos. The parade with all of its color, loud music and performances is a writhing and beautiful street party in a week of parties. It is the ultimate release of frustration at being a discriminated-against minority and a celebration of surviving another year. The American version of Queer As Folk was my favorite television show and I wanted both the characters of Justin and Brian.

That was 2004. Gay marriage would be legalized almost eleven years later to the day.


Atlanta Pride parade 2013. Photo by me, October 2013.

Much has changed in the nineteen years since 2004 and much has not. I was younger at thirty-one and now I am a slower moving, slightly more wrinkled fifty-year-old that stopped partying in my mid forties, lives outside the city, I can get legally married, Backstreet and many other bars and clubs are long gone and Atlanta is a helluva lot bigger and more expensive and Atlanta officially celebrates Pride in October and I totally and utterly disagree with that change.

In one aspect, it feels more like the 1980s and 90s than 2023 as Pride month begins. The stench of fear and bullshit are blowing in the wind. Again, the United States is bobbing and weaving through another culture war with gays and Pride in the middle of it, as a volleyball in a game in which those on the conservative political spectrum are trying to score using us as bait. This is reminiscent of my youth, when the country was less tolerant, less accepting of the other and we had AIDS then too. The political sideshow of it all is boring and tiresome at fifty years old.

The ghosts of the Moral Majority of the 1980s and their claims of a sinister gay cabal with a homosexual agenda have arisen from their cesspits of defeat. There are accusations of gay grooming and all of that nonsense. This new set of grifters and homophobes may be loud, but they certainly are not very original in their smears. Shame on those nasty people and perhaps they should clean up their own closets. Thou doth protest too much. What's next the gay panic defense?


It is rather funny that in all my years I have never caught a whiff of official homosexual meetings typing up the homosexual agenda or even a grocery list.

A woman confronts a coward to his face and all he can do is look away. That man is the type that wish to do gays harm. Atlanta Pride parade. Photo by me, June 2007.

There is much revisionist history I read on the internet, as some claim Pride month is a new phenomenon in some gay conspiracy take over of the country. This is nothing more than some homophobes finally taking notice of something beyond the end of their own noses and using gays as a way to grift money and make a name for themselves on social media. June has been officially recognized as Pride month since 1999, thanks to Bill Clinton. Also, since June 1969, there has been the historical precedent of that important event in gay liberation that you might have heard of called the Stonewall riots. Pride month is not something new and there is also Pride week when the parties, the festival and the parade happens. For those who do not like Pride month or week on their calendar then ignore it. I promise that Pride month is not going to kidnap you, make you dance for dollar bills in a thong on Peachtree or give you a better sense of fashion.

Some people are upset that Target is selling Pride merchandise and others are upset that Target is removing the Pride merchandise as a capitulation to a boycott. Both sides are being played in this silliness over what a retail store sells. It is a distraction from the larger issues of life. How dumb and lazy have we become as a society that adults spend time arguing over rainbows on tee shirts and beer bottles? Do you believe you are saving the world by stopping someone from buying a rainbow tee shirt? Are you that easily offended, weak and manipulated? Maybe you are one of those types who thrives on outrage because of your own misery?

I have no plans of buying any Pride merchandise from Target, I can do that at a gay retailer such as Brushstrokes. The only gay themed shirts I have ever purchased were from Brushstrokes in Ansley, Ball Beachwear in Fort Lauderdale or at the Pride festival itself. At least I know that my money went back into gay pockets.

There is another side to this argument to consider.


Atlanta Pride parade 2007. Photo by me, June 2007.

I remember the complaints in the gay community of the 1990s and 2000s about how commercial Pride had become with corporate sponsors and floats in the parade. I did find it rather insulting and tacky to see Bank of America and other corporations with floats that were nothing more than advertisements in the parade. Bank of America does not get hurt being called a faggot on the street by a moron like I have a few times, nor have they ever been assaulted as I have for just being a gay man. They have no place in a Pride parade and they have not earned that honor and yes, it is an honor. Corporations have bought their way in and used Pride as a marketing opportunity.


PFLAG in the Atlanta Pride parade. Photo by me, October 2013.

As far as the regurgitated smears of gay grooming, gay kids are a natural part of human biology and are going to exist whether some like it or not. Those children deserve protection, as all children do, and that is why there are organizations like PFLAG that have been around since 1973, the year I was born.

The origins of PFLAG began when elementary school teacher Jeanne Manford's gay son was beaten in 1972 for handing out flyers to a dinner party. The police had little interest in solving the case, so Manford became an activist. She went on radio and television and in the summer of 1973 marched with her son in the New York City gay pride march. She carried a sign that read, “parents of gays unite to support our children.” Her bravery and willingness to support her son gave birth to PFLAG.

A terrible photo of me and my then boyfriend at the 1998 Atlanta Pride festival in Piedmont Park in June.

I think back to my first Atlanta Pride festival and parade in 1995. I was twenty-two and though I was more than comfortable in my own skin and with being an openly young gay man in some of my circles of life, I was not out to all. I was not out to all of my family then or to my coworkers. I lived in an old factory on Ponce de Leon Avenue and even living in the confines of the city, it was not entirely safe to be completely open in my life. My boyfriend had the tailgate of his truck vandalized in the parking lot of our building, sprayed on it in capital red letters was the word FAG. We had been harassed on a MARTA train at Five Points. The city was not OZ or a protective paradise, but it was significantly safer as a gay man than living out in the suburbs in a place like Cobb County. Going to the parade and festival in Piedmont Park was the first time in my life that I was surrounded by so many people like myself. It was scary and simultaneously great. That weekend meant a lot to me and it still does. I was glad that Pride existed, if for no other reasons than it was eye-opening and so much fun.

I went to Pride for years and it was always marked in ink on my calendar months in advance. I went to the parade, the festival, the parties and danced until sunrise or later in the bars. I watched the younger generations move into the scene and then it became time for me to bow out. Plus, having Pride in October in Atlanta does not work for me, as October is one of my busier months for social activities.

There are disagreements I have with the modern gay movement, support organizations and Pride, but those are insignificant when compared to external threats and the rise of hateful smears against gays by those that would do us harm just for existing. I did not ask for my sexual orientation to be politicized, just as I did not ask to be gay.

Of course, I am glad Pride still flourishes and means something to younger generations finding their way through life. Pride has a place for them just as it did for me in 1995 and if I ever feel as though I need it again. We do live in ugly, violent and fractured times.