by Mallory Moad
On Saturday, June 6, the streets of Fresno’s Tower District were a riot of color. Balloons, flags, bubbles, and beads turned Olive Avenue into a crazy kaleidoscope in preparation for the 25th Annual Rainbow Pride Parade.
In 2001, Fresno hosted its first Lesbian/Gay Freedom Parade. Some spectators attended out of curiosity, others out of animosity. But during the years that followed, the parade—and audience—has expanded to include members of both LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) and straight communities, and the name was changed to the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival. Curious folks still show up (and that’s okay), but protesters seem to have been overwhelmed by the positive energy of a celebration that was once viewed as controversial. The past’s defiant, in-your-face rants (“We’re queer, we’re here, get over it!”) have been replaced by messages that reflect a more encouraging but no less powerful point of view (“Change your thinking, change your life”).
The fifth parade on my list began, as most parades do, with a color guard. Uniformed members of the Knights of Malta carried flags of the United States, State of California, City of Fresno, and Rainbow Pride along with flags representing three LGBT subcultures. The 2015 Rainbow Pride Parade had three–count ’em!–individuals who served as Grand Marshals of the festivities. Tiana Perez marched with The Fresbians social group that she founded. Jeromie Garza and Rod Hansen, of The Painted Table Catering and Events, greeted the crowd from atop a rainbow-festooned SUV, as waiters offered colorful beads to those of us watching from the sidelines.
Beautiful drag queens were in abundance, looking absolutely fabulous as they strutted gracefully in heels, waved from classic cars, and danced on floats. The hot sun seemed to have no effect on these lovely ladies. Various LGBT support and service groups participated in the day’s activities, including Lambda Alliance, AIDS Walk, Community Link, and Trans E-Motion. Fresno and Merced LGBT Community Centers’ group wore wings made of bright, bouncing, swimming noodles, a wacky look reminiscent of sea creatures.
A number of non-LGBT organizations marched in support and solidarity. Keeping with the rainbow theme, a team from the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health wore vibrant green head wraps and distributed wristbands that were even brighter. Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, and the National Women’s Political Caucus of Fresno County made appearances. Peace Fresno brought along the Raging Grannies, not as glamorous as the drag queens but impressive nonetheless. Families and clergy from local houses of worship were a strong presence, stressing open minds and hearts with a message of love and acceptance of all people. Children from the Unitarian Universalist Church rode in a classic fire engine while a huge delegation from the First Congregational Church carried a big rainbow flag.
Everyone should be allowed to be proud of who they are every day, without judgment. And on that sunny morning in June in the Tower District, that pride was celebrated in a big way with humor, confidence, and dignity.
My name is Mallory Moad, and I love parades of all colors.