Last week I had attended the 47th annual pride parade here at Chicago. It was my first pride after I had moved to the United States, so naturally i was super excited.
The parade was scheduled for 12 noon and being the lazy bum that I am, I ended up leaving barely an hour before the it was to commence. My house is located 8 miles away from the area where the parade was to take place. But from the moment i exited my house all i could see was people sporting the rainbow. The 30 minute train ride to the said location also surprised me, what with almost every inch of every compartment being filled with LGBTQ people and allies. We all got down and walked towards the parade route. Google informed me that a 4 mile stretch had been cordoned off for 5 hours to prevent any traffic issues.
As I neared the route, the cheering and the hooting sounds coming from the crowd kept getting louder. Then I saw something that made me believe I must be dreaming.
The only pride march that i had even been to was the 2014 annual Chennai pride. There were probably around 300 people marching that day through one of the hidden ghettos of the city. While it was exciting for me, it could not even come anywhere close to the parade last week. All i could see everywhere i turned was rainbow clad people. Since 2014, the parade has been attended by at least a million people every year and this year seemed to be no exception.
The Parade Begins
As soon as i reached i noticed that there were blockades on either side of the road to prevent people from disrupting the parade. On each side there were many families that were sat in picnic chairs around tables filled with food and in some cases, merchandise. Almost everybody had adorned themselves with rainbow colored clothes and accessories; Hats, jewelry, bandanas, badges, flags and even tails! And then the parade started passing by.
There was a sudden silence among the crowd ahead of us. Like a contagious infection it spread throughout the crowd making everybody look towards the road. We saw the parade come towards us and the reason behind the silence became apparent. It was lead by 51 people, two of who were carrying a banner that said “We Are Orlando” and the remaining were each carrying one of the victims’ photos. There was a minute of silence praying for the souls that lost their lives to that hate-filled demon a week prior.
This was followed by a senator and a congresswoman with their supporters, veterans, FBI, Army, Navy, Chicago police, a gang of queer bikers. They were followed a bunch of people dressed as our favorite Marvel and DC characters, a few radio and tv stations, financial companies, churches, jewish organizations, Asians and Friends, city colleges and schools, Athlete associations and music bands on buses.
It took nearly two hours for the parade to finish and having gone alone, i wanted to walk the entire distance and take it all in. There were all sorts of people who were cheering in that 4 mile stretch. People from every known label within the LGBT spectrum and their allies. Some of the parade-goers had even brought their pets to the celebration; Various breeds of dogs, cats, for some weird reason a pig on leash and a couple of geese being walked around in a stroller.
The beautiful love I witnessed
After having walked the entire stretch of the parade, I came to the Lake Shore park which was the end point and cheered the last of the participants through. It was here that I noticed an old lady sitting in the park a few feet away from me. She smiled at me and we exchanged pleasantries before we went back to watching the route. A few minutes later I looked around and saw her lady friend shuffle towards her holding a couple of ice creams. She slowly knelt down and planted a kiss on her partner’s lips and passed her an ice cream. They both sat there eating slowly, holding hands and just enjoying the love they shared with affectionate words.
That sight, to me, was the pinnacle of the thing we were all celebrating there that day; Love!