I have never felt like I needed a Pride parade. I’m one of those gents who has led a life of extreme privilege with regard to my sexual orientation. My daily routine post-high-school has always included being out. I have always been out in the work place. I was elected to public office as an out gay male. I freakin host a nationally syndicated gay radio show. In my past, I have been so obnoxious to have repeatedly said, “I celebrate Pride every day in my heart.” I really have been that guy.
No, I have never felt like I needed a Pride parade. Until it was taken away from me today. And now I need it more than anything.
On Thursday afternoon, our greater Cleveland LGBTQ and ally community was ambushed by a Facebook post from Cleveland Pride, Inc. announcing that the Cleveland Pride parade, rally and festival had been canceled a mere two weeks before our August 13 celebration. No reason was given. Or, at least, no reason that used actual words that even remotely resembled something someone might call a reason.
According to Todd J. Saporito, president/CEO of Cleveland Pride, Inc. and President/CEO of Flex (“one of the largest private alternative men’s club in the world” and, yes, that means exactly what you think it does), “Because of the changing social climate, Cleveland Pride did not have enough time to engage in the development of awareness programs and training that we believe is critical in today’s environment.”
Um…what? What on earth are you talking about? Awareness of what? Training of whom? Not enough time? Didn’t we in Cleveland just move our Pride back two months to accommodate the Republican National Convention? Yes, the RNC. Remember that? It’s just the first of many reasons why the the cancelation of Cleveland Pride is inconceivable. To list:
- The cancelation of Cleveland Pride is inconceivable given that we just hosted the flipping Republican National Convention last week. Protestors and protestors with many, many guns converged on Cleveland from all over the world with focused intensity and angst. Trust me, Cleveland Pride did not present a more challenging “social climate” than the RNC.
- The cancelation of Cleveland Pride is inconceivable given that there is a city-wide celebration this weekend to thank Cleveland for hosting the RNC. Post-RNC Cleveland is not suddenly ill-equipped to handle large events.
- The cancelation of Cleveland Pride is inconceivable given that Cleveland just hosted the Gay Games only two years ago. Have we suddenly forgotten how to organize gay people?
- The cancelation of Cleveland Pride is inconceivable given that Cleveland took less than 48 hours to plan a parade last month to honor our beloved Cavaliers. Over a million people showed up. Over. A. Million. Lest you think that Cleveland has become a gay mecca, let me assure you: the Cleveland Pride parade was not about to draw over a million people. Move that decimal point to the left quite a few spots.
- The cancelation of Cleveland Pride is inconceivable given that cities all over the country have been celebrating Pride post-Orlando for months now. What on earth is different about the “social climate” in Cleveland?
A few days ago, the Mayor of Cleveland signed a historic non-discrimination ordinance. A few days before that, we warmly welcomed thousands of (armed) Republican visitors to our city despite their platform that clearly articulated that we are all less than our straight and cisgender brothers and sisters. A few weeks before that, one of our largest municipalities took a bold (and unanimous) step to ensure that everyone has equal access to employment, housing, public accommodations, and education. The month before that, after the Orlando murders, we gathered together multiple times as a community to comfort each other, have our voices heard, and our faces seen. We LGBTQ and ally Clevelanders need Pride to not only celebrate but also to just plain be together. And it was taken away from us.
For so many individuals in our Cleveland LGBTQ community, Cleveland Pride is their first opportunity (or the only day the whole damn year) to be both out and their fully realized selves. For all of us, it is an opportunity to be visible and for us to gather as the community of individuals that makes us uniquely Clevelanders. Yes, of course we can experience pride in our hearts every day of the year. But the cancelation of this one day of pure and utter Pride is a deep, deep loss.
It’s not that I didn’t fully appreciate Cleveland Pride. If we’re being honest here, I did not appreciate Cleveland Pride at all before today. Right now, I am really and truly sitting in my house singing “Big Yellow Taxi” over and over again in a pathetic, unending loop. Our Cleveland Pride paradise was just paved over. And it hurts.