Saturday, June 28, 2008—a banner day for me and for the three friends who walked with me as part of the PFLAG entry in the 2008 Santa Fe gay pride parade. I wasn’t even aware that a parade was on the horizon when I picked up the flyer at St. Bede’s last Sunday. It was an invitation to join in support of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) by walking with that group in the parade.
I told my friend Judy from north Texas, who had stopped at my place for the night before heading to her family summer place on the mesa at Carson, about the parade. She immediately jumped on the opportunity to volunteer herself, her mother Joy, and our friend Gregg to join our small contingency. Frankly, I felt a mix of enthusiasm and potential nakedness.
As Judy and I talked about the parade Wednesday evening here in Santa Fe—before Joy and Gregg knew they had been enlisted—I commented that I would love a tie-dyed t-shirt. In response that was almost your wish is my command, Judy revealed from her travel gear a couple of shirts she made when she recently taught her high school artists about tie-dyeing. The next evening I showed up in Carson with white t-shirts, RIT dye, and boxes of salt. The process of designing and dyeing the shirts, which began that evening and continued into the next afternoon, was miraculous. As we pulled our work from the dye vat, we marveled at the results of our pinning, folding, and banding. The final results were nothing short of smashing—yellow, green, blue, pink, even tiny specks of red from the dyes reacting with one another. The shirts are a brilliant illustration of color combining with cotton, but more important, they are forever an emblem of human energy in harmony.
As we searched for a space in the already-overflowing state capitol parking lot on Saturday morning, none of us suspected the magic about to happen. And when Joy thanked me later that day for the opportunity to be part of something so moving, even though my role was accidental, I could only nod and admit my own thanks for the privilege of being a part—for the first time ever in a period of 38 years—of such a show of pride.
A small band of drummers already assembling in the parking lot had begun their pulsating, soul plumbing work. The sounds electrified the air and played with my body. “Damn, I wish I had my drum” (the tenor drum I bought this past winter at a music store in Texas—the one I saw myself taking to the mountains and “beating the crap out of”—primal therapy). On this day, though, I had to let someone else make that part of the music.
I will cry for awhile as I remember this day, the energy as we milled about waiting for the parade to begin, the walk from the state capitol parking lot to the Plaza, people scattered along the street, applauding as we passed by, the drumming far ahead of us in this march of unity, our brothers and sisters—ALL—waving as we waved back. Little could I imagine that I would be overwhelmed as we made the jog at San Francisco Street, entering the Plaza, people three deep on both sides of the street, cheering, tears streaming down my face, as I bit my upper lip to keep from sobbing. Oh, my God yes, “whoever welcomes you welcomes me…” (Matthew 10:40).