Chicago Pride Parade 2019: The Drama

posted by Madame Bubby

I was there. It was humid and crowded, and luckily I was standing near some hot shirtless guys with cute asses. Nothing terribly exciting or, to be honest, much different from previous years, even if it was celebrating 50 years since Stonewall.
 

Chicago Pride Parade balloons
Photo Credit: Time Out Chicago

I left early to cool down in a friend's apartment, and soon the floodgates opened. Literally. Severe thunderstorms moved in, accompanied by torrential rains. To obtain updates, I was following CWB Chicago on Twitter as the drama was occurring. Attendees were ordered by the police to first shelter in place, and then evacuate. Ultimately, the parade was, to use the unfortunate language of the police, “terminated.” In the 49 years of its existence, as far as I know, this parade was never rained on. Never.

Luckily, my friend and I were ensconced on the couch watching the delayed broadcast of the parade during the monsoon.

We waited until the sun had emerged, about 4:30 p.m, to emerge ourselves to check out the situation.

I already knew from the updates that this unprecedented event causes situations of violence, and, according to a witnesses, overall “weirdness.”

For example, a local Walgreens and CVS wanted to lock their doors because of the onslaught of persons fleeing the rain. In the parking lot of the Walgreens, persons were jumping on cars (this behavior has happened before at events), but in the case, the crowd was larger and overall more violent.
 

Jumping on cars, Chicago Pride Parade
Photo Credit: CWB Chicago

Police said two people were arrested in separate incidents for slapping police horses after the parade had stopped. For example, acccording to CWB Chicago, Wagdi Elgosbi, 28, approached a police horse in the 3200 bock of North Clark around 5:20 p.m. and asked the officer riding it if he could pet the animal. When the officer denied his request, Elgosbi slapped the horse in its face, police said in an arrest report. (Unacceptable!)

And, something both violent and, to be truthful, weird occurred at Chicago Comics (complete story available here). A woman burst into the store, begging for someone to call the police. A gang of twenty plus teenagers burst in, vanadalizing the store, and they sprayed the woman with pepper spray. The group fled when they heard the sirens. The police arrived, and the woman was taken away in an ambulance.
 

Mess in Chicago Comics
Photo Credit: Chicago Comics Facebook Page

Now, just listing incidents in this fashion doesn't really prove much specifically. Violence has occurred in the wake of this event before (and tends to occur at public celebrations, no matter who puts them on), but the above behavior appear to be more noteworthy, whatever that means.

And certainly noteworthy was the twerking trend occurring this year. Any object could be “twerked,” according to this compilation.

I realize for some time there's been much controversy, mostly racially-charged, around claims about groups of teenagers not from the local area creating problems in the Boystown area.

I also think one could gain a more accurate and perhaps even inspiring context for this situation by recounting what happened to my friend and I after we left the apartment.

In a quest for food, we stopped at a casual joint called Windy City Gyros. The place was full of openly gay teenagers, racially diverse. Yes, openly gay, girls holding hands, one guy with his arm draped around the shoulder of another guy. This was a place where they could be open, safe. I can't imagine that behavior occurring when I was in high school in the 1970s, anywhere.
 

 

Windy City Gyros interior
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com

And, I do understand the serious issues with police presence at such events, especially at an event which commemorates a movement that began as a protest against the police, but a couple police guys casually went into the place to sit down and eat. Imagine how different this situation might have been in the 1970s and 1980s. During that period, the police might have been there because the owners would be calling them about the deviants.

The boundary between celebration and violence, and self-expression and psychological disturbance, is fluid, especially at events whose purpose and history, however that history may be subsumed or diluted, is a stand against repressive hierarchies.

I decry the violence that occurred in a place previous generations built to be safe and open (including for twerking) for the future: LGBTQ youth.

Perhaps, 50 years after Stonewall, we need to realize that it's not justice or rights in the abstract we need to work for, but with persons in all their moment by moment, often messy, complexity.

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Early Chicago Pride Parades: A Reflection

posted by Madame Bubby

Four million persons are expected to be at Stonewall 50 in New York City. The 48th annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade in Chicago promises to be quite impressive too, one big party.

Even in these times of turmoil in the United States when the human rights of so many are becoming increasingly precarious, LGBTQ communities are still strong and vibrant. And note that in Brazil, now run by the virulently homophobic Jair Bolsonaro, the São Paulo parade attracted three million persons.

But in the years right after Stonewall, the parades were not the carnivalesque events they are today. They were militant liberation marches, risky on so many levels for the participants. These early parades were attended by only a few hundred people and received little official notice.
 

1976 Chicago Pride Parade

1976 Chicago Pride Parade

The first gay pride march and rally took place in Chicago on June 27, 1970, just one year after Stonewall.

The original parade went from Bughouse Square, right on the dividing line between River North and Old Town. From that point, a small crowd marched down the Mag Mile to the Daley Center.

According to an article by Emmet Sullivan, about 150 people participated. He notes:

The Chicago Tribune ran a 75-word blurb about the event on the third page of its June 28 edition, noting that it ended with festgoers circling the Picasso statue in the plaza and shouting, “Gay power to gay people.” By 1973, the parade had moved its starting point to Belmont Harbor. The “gay liberationists” leading the charge numbered 300, according to the Tribune.
 

Chicago Tribune 1971 Pride Parade Article

1971 Chicago Pride Parade

The parade then bounced between a few routes, mostly around Belmont Harbor and the intersection of Clark and Diversey, at that time developing as Chicago's gay neighborhood.

I remember inadvertently going to that parade in the 1980s (as I went to the old Great Ace hardware store at Clark and Diversey), which by that time attracted thousands rather than hundreds of people. In my naivete, all I remembered were hot shirtless guys holding signs, whose message and import escaped me, especially when a hunky guy with a big mustache marching in the parade came up to me and let me grab his nipple (part of my gradual coming out experience).

I now know that by that time, the AIDS crisis was in full swing and the heady days of liberation were over. The community, with a new-found strength, faced down death and chose life.

Without those brave persons in the 1970s, who literally risked their lives as persons living in the supposedly equal society of America by marching in public, the fabric of a community would not have been strong enough to band together and ensure that those who died would be remembered. And to fight for and with the survivors who would make the memorial quilts.

Maybe in these times when the hashtag #NeverAgain is so apropos, we need to think of this Pride Month kind of like Passover. We remember the nights of oppression, and we remember the days of liberation. But in this case, we saved ourselves. Perhaps it's time to do some more saving.

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Stonewall 50 Is Here, But I Remember Stonewall 25!

posted by Madame Bubby

In 1994, I attended the Stonewall 25 celebrations in New York City. And, most significantly, it was my first visit to New York City. And even more significantly, it was the beginning of my intense journey into the world of BDSM relationships.
 

New York City, 1994

That year, I had pretty much abandoned the more “vanilla” activities of the LGBTQ world. My forays into, for example, singing in the choirs of Dignity and with the Windy City Gay Chorus were socially and artistically disappointing. I had been to IML a couple of times, and because I was working at a mundane office job that was not demanding outside the actual hours I had to suffer there (I should have been attempting to complete my academic ambitions, but that's another story), I spent much time on the weekends in bars. One might say, I was in my “slut” period. I was really looking for kink and romance, but that goal proved to be elusive.

Thus, looking for some excitement and still longing for connections in the LGBTQ community, I jumped at the opportunity when a couple of friends on the gay choral circuit invited me to go with them to New York. I worked some overtime so we could split one room four ways in Midtown Manhattan.

Upon arrival, in keeping with my life's trajectory at that point, I pretty much abandoned my friends' events (seeing Barbra Streisand, no thank you). The first night in New York City, I took the subway by myself down to Chelsea. I walked into a bar called Rawhide. Several persons in that bar lusted after me in my tight Levis and snakeskin cowboy boots. I smoked a joint with a guy I met outside. Yes, That Boy had arrived. Admittedly, the city was in a feverish celebratory mood, and perhaps what happened to me was a product of that feeling, but as usual, I never received such attention in my hometown.
 

Rawhide bar, NYC
Rawhide bar, NYC

I ended up at the Eagle and arrived back at the hotel room at 4 a.m., much to the consternation of one of my friends, who had previously decided I was on the path to gay perdition because I was into leather and did not like Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. (At least I liked opera, but he did not think I loved La Divina aka Maria Callas enough.)

The next days were frenetic, but in a good way, as I, like Agnes Gooch the sponge of Auntie Mame, lived, lived, lived. Impressions: Chinatown, the fish on the streets. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a wonderland of the Old Masters (I had to show my friends how to get there, as I figured out the subway they were so scared of pretty quickly). Bodegas, fruits, flowers on the street. Buying food at D'Agostino's. People, people, so many on the sidewalk like in the movies. Vibrant, no one cared who you were or what you did. Little evidence of the segregation and compartmentalization I experienced in Chicago.

The Saturday night before the big parade the next day (we marched with the Illinois contingent), I said, I am going to go that Leather Ball in the Armory, by myself, and I don't care how much it costs. Let my roommates go to their vanilla choral concert. I put on my chaps, paid at the door an astronomical fee to get in because I had not reserved in advance, and entered a vast space of pounding house music and surprisingly, perhaps because I had arrived early, lots of space between bodies.
 

Lexington Avenue Armory
Lexington Avenue Armory

After about a half an hour, I saw him. He had been looking at me, and I at him. He certainly was no party boy, faux leather type. African-American, mature, bearded, glasses. Holding a rope. Cut off jean shorts. Worn beige work boots. Not exactly a Tom of Finland look or outfit. Perhaps that was the appeal. In less than fifteen minutes, I was tied to that rope. Yes, some enchanted evening does happen.

I spend the rest of the evening on that rope and at the boots. It was kinky, but also romantic. Lots of smiling at each other and at the straight BDSM couple at the ball (the girl was on a rope like me). At about 2 a.m., he took me to a pansexual sex party in an apartment with orange and green walls. I felt like I was in a Fellini movie. An orgy of naked grungy bodies in one corner, a coked up guy who was supposed to be guarding the door, an extremely large woman on a folding chair.

I arrived back at the hotel room at 5 a.m., much to the consternation of the friend mentioned above.
 

Giant rainbow banner, Pride/Stonewall 25 parade, NYC
Stonewall 25 banner

After all the above activities, and the massive parade (which I managed to walk in cowboy boots) the next day, the return to Chicago was extremely disappointing. The physical space of my hometown seemed to me flat, with too much arid space between buildings, and a ramshackle public transit system. Provincial, I kept saying.

New York had called because the man, the first master, was there. And I would return there, and he would come to me. My ritual initiation into serious BDSM. The scouring of body and soul. We were the one to each other.

I often dreamed of living there, but for practical reasons, mostly financial, that never occurred, but for a few years I could enjoy a world that for me resembled one I had only seen in movies. New York and Stonewall 25 were an escape, but also the beginning of a real life which showed me, contrary to what I was hearing from so many persons I knew at that time, that romantic love and BDSM can exist together in the diverse spectrum of human relationships.

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