Made us proud

You know, ya’ win some, and you lose some. And sometimes, the celebrations are wins in themselves.

Northern Nevadans were reminded of this during last weekend’s Gay Pride parade. The event went unusually smoothly this year; the parade, from West First Street north on Arlington Avenue to the Sands Regency, even started on time. It’s the ninth annual celebration for Reno, and it seems organizers have got some things figured out.

The turnout was pretty good this year, although it was somewhat difficult to compare numbers to the last few years, since the march was down Arlington instead of Virginia Street. But there did, indeed, seem to be enough people there. There were even tourists who came to town specifically for the event. It’s all good. (Although, maybe there’s another way to accept the Sands’ generosity and sponsorship without having the celebration’s booths set up in the parking lot—the party was smokin’ in more ways than one.)

It’s true there wasn’t a familiar sense of urgency on the part of the celebrants. The past few years, the same-sex marriage issue was hot, and the First Amendment rights of religion and expression had real warriors fighting for its ascendancy and for equal protection under the law. That fight is by no means over, and some of these celebrants had been, some for a short time, married in the eyes of the law. And, don’t forget, same-sex couples are still being married in Massachusetts.

If there were any protesters, they were pretty hard to spot. Who would have ever thought that people would remember fondly the days that homophobes would protest the Gay Pride celebration, preaching hate. But also don’t forget that Eric Rudolph was sentenced this week to life in prison. Rudolph perpetrated the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, which killed one and injured 111, and he also exploded bombs at an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub that injured 11 in 1997.

Oddly, one older gay gentleman lamented just how normal it all was. Gay rights are no longer a revolutionary concept, not even in Reno, Nevada. People of all persuasions, all ages, socio-economic status were on the scene to show their support.

“Aren’t any queers going to show up to this thing?” asked the man, in his heels, mini-skirt and wig. “Oh, look at the pretty girls,” as a statuesque pair of lesbians walked hand and hand across the avenue, proud and strong.

Back here at the World Headquarters of the Reno News & Review, where in years past, Pride touched off a deluge of homophobic missives, the letters box was almost empty. Where were the complaints of the right-wing mob that demanded a constitutional amendment to ban certain types of loving relationships? Could it be that all that saber rattling was only a political scheme to turn out the hateful to vote, to sacrifice the powerless to political expediency?

It was business as usual down at the Gay Pride event. Yes, there were a few cars from the TV stations down there, about the same as you’d expect at the Italian Festival, but does anyone remember the days when mobs of reporters ran along with the parade expecting some action at any moment?

Reno Gay Pride 2005 was a stunning success. And its sheer normality, ordinariness, and noncontroversiality is a testament to those who stepped forward in the early days of the gay-rights movement—the men and women who demanded nothing more than to be treated like the normal/extraordinary people they are.