Small Town Pride Festival

Because I was busy working at my fabulous internship for the summer, I’d resigned myself to a Pride-Fest-Less year. Sad, but occasionally inevitable. Until I found out that there would be a small town Pride happening this past weekend! I went with two of my fantastic and newly engaged queer friends and met a whole host of fantastic queer people.

It was a big reminder to me of how much I love Pride Festivals. I try not to be that dyke who spits rainbows 24/7, but I love to rainbow it up for Pride. I love the atmosphere of Pride. It’s just fun. For once, out-there and/or queer type people are the majority and you can just be super gay without being self conscious. I love hearing women refer to their girlfriend/wife and men refer to their boyfriend/husband without any hesitation or self-conscious consideration.  I love seeing two Moms or two Dads with kids, and I love seeing straight parents with their kids. Little kids running around with rainbows painted on their face. I walked past a 30-something mother with her 7ish son talking to a drag queen who had recently gotten off stage. I heard the mother turn to her son and say, “Do you know what a transsexual is?” and when he shook his head proceeded to explain that some people’s insides are different then their outsides and so they make their outsides be right with who they are. The kid seemed more interested in the donut stand across the street, but that’s normal for a child. How great that he has a mother who explains things simply and with no judgement. A mother who takes him to Gay Pride so he will grow up respecting everyone. Awesome!!

I’ve been to some Big Prides. Chicago. DC. So I was a little skeptical of small town Pride, especially as it was their first go at putting one on. But I realized as I watched the variety of Drag Queens strut their stuff, and as I watched the most physically diverse group of back-up dancers I’d ever seen rock out and hold nothing back, that one advantage of small town Pride is that there are few people there and it makes people more inclusive. As much as Pride Festivals operate under the motto that We Are All Family, go to any of the Big Prides and you will notice something about all the members of the Family that are waving from floats and dancing on stage– they are all the snapshot of perfect physical beauty. Men with 1% body fat and chiseled muscles. Women with the perfect slim figure and long legs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of looking at beautiful people, but we aren’t all supermodels. The queer community is like the non-queer community in that there can be a lot of pressure to look a certain way. It makes me sad that even as we protest being judged by others, we still continue the practice of judging our own. But at small town Pride, there was significantly less of that. Dancing on stage in dance pants and bras were women of every shape and size. Dancing next to them were men in briefs who ranged from skinny and wiry to muscled and macho. It was so refreshing to see, so inspiring to be among a group of people that (maybe just for one day, but still) embraced everyone in the community and welcomed them to take part in the celebration.

I talked to old lesbians and baby dykes, to young flaming gay men and aging bears and never once did I feel judged for being too butch or not butch enough or not sexy enough or any other insecurities. I danced (I don’t usually do that) and laughed and generally had a fantastic time in the middle of rural Iowa on a Saturday in August. I woke up optimistic about starting the school year and excited to continue the adventure my life continues to be. I just want to bottle up all this Happiness and save it for a gloomy day. You don’t have to look like a model, or make a lot of money. Just be you and find the people who have your back. (I say this as much for myself as for any of you faithful readers and at the risk of sounding like a Hallmark Card, but hey, it’s one of those kinds of days)

If we could all just get over ourselves and our hang ups about who we think others expect us to be— wouldn’t that be great?!

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