The month of June is Gay Pride month, and last weekend was LA Pride here in Los Angeles. The event is attended by thousands upon thousands of people from across the country and globe, including people who bring their children, despite the fact that it is a very non-family-friendly event.
The main event of the weekend is the Pride parade but there are numerous evens leading up to the parade. Streets in West Hollywood, California are shut down for the whole weekend and it's foot traffic only. There are food trucks, booths for various organizations and businesses and drinks flowing like the Oroville Dam. (Remember that? Courtesy of negligent liberal politicians in California.)
The closest comparison would be Mardis Gras but with less Southern Comfort and more emphasis on sex. Scantily clad members of all (both) genders attract attention from revellers and news cameras. There's confetti, balloons, tents, booths, music blasting and banana hammocks. The live concerts begin on Saturday morning and continue well into the evening the next day.
I've only attended three times in my life. The first time was when I was a new resident of West Hollywood and walked down to the boulevard (world famous Santa Monica Blvd., a.k.a. Route 66) to see what it was all about. I performed a spectacular about-face and walked back up to my apartment.
The other two times I've attended have been this year and last year to man the booth for our Log Cabin Republicans chapter. You can imagine what the reception is for an organization like ours at an event like that. I've written before about the discrimination and backlash my LGBT friends receive as a result of their conservative ideology. It was on full display last weekend in our LCR booth. I'll just recap some of the things, both positive and negative, I witnessed:
We even hired some drag queens to join our booth to help us create curiosity and bring people into the booth for dialogue. The people we hired expressed to us their shock at how we were treated. They emphasized how sad it was to witness the hate directed at us from a group that is supposed to be all about being inclusive.
Some people were friendly and wanted to know more about LGBT Republicans in general and said they didn't even know gay and/or LGBT Republicans existed. This was a wakeup call to us that we need to focus on more outreach.
We watched as one girl's friend tried to walk over and talk to us. Her girlfriend pulled her by the arm away from us and wouldn't even let her have a conversation.
We tried very hard to project a "Happy Pride!" message and balance our American enthusiasm with our Pride enthusiasm. My Log Cabin friends have been accused in the past of being overly patriotic and not "proud enough" of their place in the LGBT community. People were much more responsive this time around. However, many of them as they approached the booth would then look up and see our "LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS" banner and walk away.
We did have some people give us their information because they were interested in learning more about us. Roughly 400,000 people attended and we had 86 people sign up for more information. That may not seem like a lot, but for numerous reasons, it's an encouraging number. First, it's more than we got last year. Second, it's intimidating for someone to not only approach our booth, but then to sign up for information in front of their friends and other festival attenders. That takes courage.
Fortunately, the weekend was successful. No one tried to fight us, which is always a concern, particularly toward the end of the weekend when people have been drinking for two days and can get aggressive. It was peaceful and we're looking forward to providing a warm and educational environment to more LGBT members who are still in the political closet of conservatism.