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Pride by many other names: whether it's a dyke march, black gay pride, or a youth rally, gay men and lesbians are finding new ways to celebrate their diversity. (Pride 2002).

On a breezy Saturday last June, 32 years after rioting at New York's Stonewall Inn nudged America into the modern gay rights era, about 1,000 people--all but a few of them women--waited for the signal starting the sixth annual Chicago Dyke March.

There was a whistle. A drumbeat. A roar. And then the march snaked through Andersonville, the north side neighborhood that's home to a large portion of Chicago's lesbian population.

There were dykes on bikes, on unicycles, and in wheelchairs; most of them were on foot, though. They banged drums, bared mastectomy scars, hollered ya-yas for the sisterhood, ate fire, and chewed the fat.

Seven years ago a Chicago troupe of Lesbian Avengers founded the Chicago Dyke March to protest sexism in the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender pride parade. It's the same motivation that inspired the first dyke marches a decade ago. And now these events are thriving among hundreds of other alternative pride celebrations--some prompted by protest and others by the need for self-expression--that are organized and held separately from the nation's more traditional pride events.

"I feel like pride probably started off 30 years ago similar to the dyke march," says Cat Julia, a 26-year-old organizer of the Chicago event. "We don't have corporate sponsorship, and we don't have floats. We have a public demonstration."

Julia knows her history: At the first pride celebration--June 28, 1970--about 2,000 people walked from 51 blocks from New York City's Sheridan Square spreading a "gay is good" message. There were no floats because organizers feared such displays would detract from their political statement. There was no corporate sponsorship either.

The prevalence of corporate sponsors at today's pride events is part of what prompted the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth to start the Gay/Straight Youth Pride observance in Boston eight years ago. Held May 18, this year's celebration included a college fair, a march through the streets of Boston, and an all-day festival along the Charles River. Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, former Real World cast members, gay author Christopher Rice, and openly gay U.S. representative Barney Frank were among those who spoke at the event.

"Unlike a lot of adult prides--and I'm a huge fan of them--this is not brought to you by liquor and lube," says youth pride coordinator Mark Taggart, 30. "We wanted to leave out the commercial aspect entirely and bring in entertainers and speakers relevant to youth.... No other event of this kind or size exists anywhere in the world."

And that's important to people like Paige Kruza, a 16-year-old from Franklin, Mass., who spoke at this year's event. "I heard about youth pride freshman year, but I couldn't go then because my parents didn't want me to," says. "But last year I went with some friends, and it was incredible. It was empowering. It was an inspiration. And this year I wanted to tell everyone to get active and to be proud."

The same message is delivered at the 24 African-American gay pride celebrations held annually, such as Black Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in D.C. in May, United in Pride in Chicago (with its popular Rainbow Beach picnic) in July, and Kansas City Black Gay Pride, in early August. In 1969, the year of the Stonewall riots, the Isley Brothers reached number 2 on the pop charts with a song that provided a slogan for the liberated 1970s: "It's your thing; do what you wanna do." It's a slogan that Torean Walker, founder of the Kansas City event, says applies to the circuit of black pride events around the country.

"This pride is very FUBU: for us, by us," he says. "Traditional pride doesn't acknowledge us. This pride is community-driven. This pride reflects our values. It's our thing. We do it our way."

This year's Kansas City Black Gay Pride schedule will include a coronation ball to crown a queen and king, a series of workshops and speeches, a beach party, a jazz brunch, and a family picnic. Says Marc Williams, who coordinates the Kansas City event: "We want what we enjoy. We want house music and rhythm and blues and spicy barbecue. For years we've not celebrated who we are. We were afraid of being too black, too gay."

Some organizers of traditional pride observances say they initially took offense at calls for separate dyke marches and black gay or Latin gay celebrations. Others reacted with attempts to broaden the appeal of mainstream pride festivities and to diversify the organizing committees for their celebrations. But today, many pride organizers say they embrace the newer events.

"People form groups within a community," says Pride Chicago's Rich Pfeiffer, who has organized 32 of Chicago's 33 annual pride parades. "At the pride parade you get together with all different sorts of folks. But then you want to get together with folks like yourself. You're not separating yourself out. You're trying to come together."

Despite their differences with mainstream pride celebrations, organizers of

the alternative pride events agree with Pfeiffer--there is room enough for all of them. And they emphasize that their festivities are open to everyone. "This is about visibility" for women, dyke march organizer Julia says, "but if a guy can be down with that, then right on."

Meanwhile, Kruza says she and the other young people attending Massachusetts's youth pride celebration are heartened by older participants. "Youth pride is not reserved for the young," she says. "We definitely want to see adults come out to support us."

And Kansas City Black Gay Pride's Walker agrees that anyone and everyone is welcome at the group's events--as long as, he says, borrowing a line from the past, "it's your thing."

Pride across America

While gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people celebrate during the summer in many of the country's largest cities, gay pride in fact continues year-round, and The Advocate is pleased to point the way. Check out the calendar feature on www.advocate.com for links to Web sites about all kinds of pride events throughout the United States and Canada from now until the end of 2002. To add your pride Web site to our extensive list, please E-mail us at feedback@advocate.com.

Neff is managing editor of the Chicago Free Press.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Neff, Lisa
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 25, 2002
Words:1047
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