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Looking Back, Looking Forward - Atlanta Pride 2014

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Written by  | Published in: Personal stories

by Paul Hinson


I'm writing this the Monday after yet another exhilarating Atlanta Pride weekend. In keeping with our tradition, APT staged a booth again at Pride this year, funded in whole by contributions raised by the sale of raffle tickets at our monthly meetings over the past year. We had more than 50 individuals sign our guest register, and we handed out hundreds of cards to potential members. It was a great weekend, thanks in large part to the hard work of each and every member who passed out cards, greeted visitors, or just stopped by the booth. Special thanks go out to Gary Uitvlugt, Daniel Hyland, and Charles Stevens for coordinating our presence at this year's event.

When Pride rolls around each year I always hear people reminisce about Prides past, and how Pride's focus has changed from the "protest" emphasis of the late 70's and early 80's to the "celebration" angle we emphasize today. The activists among us probably remember impassioned chants for equal rights from the events of those years. Some of us may recall how we might have stayed away from Pride marches, either to protect jobs or the perceived invisibility of our gay identity among straight friends and relatives.

 We may also reminisce - or even grieve - over the loss of gay neighborhoods, and a perceived loss of a more cohesive sense of community as we, over the years, have become more and more "mainstream."

 

I imagine few of us back in the 70's would have ever predicted the commercialization of Pride, where today huge Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS and others line up to pay large sums of money for the privilege of sponsoring the event, now the third largest in the nation, drawing
150,000-300,000 visitors and pumping millions of dollars into the Atlanta economy. Today these sponsors display huge corporate banners alongside our stages and assemble elaborate floats for the Parade, televised live on our local NBC affiliate station. Atlanta Pride's "protest march" for equality of the 1970's morphed long ago into a "parade" celebrating our achievements.

In addition to increasing the visibility of our community and receiving the support of the larger community, Pride represents a journey of personal acceptance for each of us. Its far easier to be open on the job than its ever been before. For those of us who've retired, we're mercifully free of that burden altogether. If you're still on fence about how "open" you can be with your straight neighbors, friends or co-workers, maybe its time to revisit that issue. Some of us may still be reluctant to embrace the fact that in Atlanta as in many urban areas, being gay truly is a non-issue for most people. On the other end of the spectrum are those of us who flung the closet door open with such force that it came right off the hinges, maybe even years ago. Those of us in that camp are out to everyone and may not even think about "acceptance" anymore at all.

Above all, I believe we should look to past not so much to reminisce about how things were, but to celebrate our own roles in getting our community where it is today. We don't have to turn away from the past, but lets make sure we appreciate and celebrate the present, and look forward to the future with as much gratitude and joy as we can muster. Happy Pride!

 

 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 09:21

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