EVENTS | PRIDE
Atlanta Pride is one of the oldest Pride festivals in the US, and the largest in the Southeast. It was first held in 1970, just a year after the Stonewall riots, which served as a catalyst to the Pride movement in Atlanta. In 1971, when homosexual sex was still illegal, hundreds of marchers wore paper bags over their heads to hide their identity, while also sending a message of how invisible they were as a community.
In 2019, Atlanta’s 49th Annual Pride Festival began on National Coming Out Day, on Friday, October 11, and culminated with the Parade on Sunday, October 13. The celebrations kicked off on Friday, with a party hosted at Georgia Aquarium by Shangela and Phoenix from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Other notable events that happened during that weekend at Piedmont Park were The Annual Trans, Dyke, Bi & Pan Marches and a free concert headlined by Kesha, and Starlight Cabaret Show, one of the largest drag cabarets in the Southeast.
The Atlanta Pride Committee chose politician Stacey Abrams, trans activist Feroza Syed, and teenage poet Royce Mann to be the parade’s grand marshals.
“One of the reasons we choose grand marshals is because we are actually shining a light on what issues and work we as an organization believe to be important,”
The morning my porn star friend Caged Jock and I set out to the parade was overcast, but by the time we got to the MARTA’s Civic Center station, where all the floats were waiting to take off, it was full-on pouring rain. The scene that presented itself reminded me of WorldPride celebrated in NYC earlier the same year, sans the rain: rows of cars and floats were lined up along the road, with go-go boys wearing nothing but a robe and underwear; leather pups having a small party of their own on a sidewalk; bears patiently waiting by a truck adorned with hundreds of their plush namesakes.
We slowly moved through the crowd and once we made our way to the end of the street, we realized that we were walking inside of an actual parade. Quickly scanning around for the best options for advancing through the whole route of the march, we thought it would be best to walk down the street with the floats. The further we walked, the more people were lining up on the sidewalks and the more it started raining.
At a certain point on the route barricades started to appear on the sidewalks, and we realized that the only way out would be to walk towards the final destination of the parade at Piedmont Park. The crowd grew larger the more we advanced through the route, and from hundreds of people lining up the sidelines, it turned into thousands. “We love you!” and “Happy Pride!” is all we could hear, walking along the route of the parade on Peachtree street.
One of the things that struck me the most was how many people came with their kids. A lot of people in the crowd came to support those who might not be close to their own family by wearing shirts that said “Dad Hugs” and “Mom Hugs.” I’ve gotten hugged by three moms simultaneously who all kissed me on my cheeks and told me that they loved me; a handsome dad with a brown-brimmed hat gave me a strong and warm hug that almost made me cry; a married couple coddled me in a three-way embrace.
All of the people that brought kids to the parade deserve separate recognition. It’s incredibly important to show future generations that love is the answer, no matter what skin you are in. It’s comforting to know that there are parents out there who not only support their own children, but show them that tolerance is the only way forward.
A large group of anti-LGBTQ protesters lined up along one of the streets, holding up hateful slogans and protected by the police, but no one seemed to care. A few people who were walking in the parade, slowed down to taunt the outsiders with their joy. Yes, it did rain on our parade, but the unconditional support that the marchers and onlookers exhibited for each other that day couldn’t be defeated – not by the weather nor by the people who have come to project hate during such an otherwise beautiful intergenerational exhibition of love and acceptance.
NOTE: Unfortunately, all official celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of Atlanta Pride were cancelled in 2020 due to coronavirus.