To say that Lurkville Pride was tough this year would be accurate. I have never felt that enthusiastic about Pride overall (internalized homophobia?) and as previously documented I had several bad experiences. But there was one positive that may be worth documenting, and (surprise, surprise) it arose because I overcame my social anxiety long enough to think about somebody else.
The context was Lurkville’s Pride march, which consisted of walking from City Hall for one entire block, all the way to a local park. While waiting for the event to start, I milled around with a few people I knew from the LGBTQ community centre. At the periphery of our group stood an older gentleman. His dress was not particularly rainbowesque (for example, he was not wearing one of the cheap dollar store leis the organizers were passing around) and he was standing by himself. I did not know whether he was a participant in the event or just an innocent bystander.
It turns out he was a participant. The community centre was passing out ridiculous signs for us to hold while we walked, so we passed one to this fellow and he accepted it. Then we started walking.
It turns out that this fellow was fairly elderly and fairly slow. The rest of the marchers were leaving him behind. Then I made the one good decision I have all Pride: I slowed down too, and walked with him at his pace.
We started talking. He told me that this was far from his first Pride; he had been participating in Pride marches since the early 1970s. He had a picture taken of himself with a big GAY PRIDE sign. He told me what brought him to Lurkville, and how his family farm had been appropriated by the government. It was not a long march, but I learned a lot.
The fact is that this man was an elder. It is because he was brave and came out in the 1970s that I enjoy relative ease as a non-straight person today. And there are so few elders left. He is 73, which means he was in his 30s during the plague years. But he survived. Far too few did. Now many of those who survived the plague are dying of old age. But for now he is still here and still being visible.
I am sorry that the group left him behind. I am glad he did not have to walk completely alone.
Of course, I screw up everything I do, and this was no exception. I did not learn the man’s name, and I probably would not recognise him again were we to meet. But I am grateful that he marched, and I am grateful that I was able to spend time with him.