Friday, July 10, 2009

Passing (parade) thoughts

Like almost everyone, I love a parade. What’s more, as I was reminded last Saturday, I love being in a parade.
The Fourth of July is, by far, not my favorite holiday - I hate the noise from fireworks, and I’m not big on national pride - but I had a blast being in Claremont’s Fourth of July parade this year. This is a typical, beloved, small-town affair, with kids on decorated trikes and bikes, the high school marching band and neighborhood groups twiddling their thumbs in synchronization. It’s the kind of thing out-of-towners find downright dorky. I was in it once when I was growing up, with my dad pushing me in my wheelchair, which was strewn with red, white and blue crate paper. Later, I was in the Doo-Dah Parade, Pasadena’s spoof of the Rose Parade, tooling down the street in support of the legalization of marijuana, but that was some fifteen years ago.
Last Saturday, I was part of a contingent of about 15 advocating the legalization of same-sex marriage in defiance of Proposition 8 banning it here in California. In addition to my tie-dyed rainbow overalls, which perhaps stood out more than I intended, I wore a tiara with a red, white and blue veil and had a sign on the back of my chair. There was a bit of a risk in stepping out like this in a small-town, family-oriented parade (even in left-of-center Claremont), and we did get a few boos and one "go home" that I know of, but, in general, the clapping and cheering was tremendous, literally buoying us, pushing us forward. The sense I had along the long route was of riding a great, great wave.
Two other things struck me about this experience.
One is that, in our contingent, three of us were disabled, in wheelchairs. Wow! It reminded me of the times I’ve been at yearly meeting when all the people in wheelchairs there were queer. More than that, it reminded me of the theory I’ve had for years, since before I came out, that queer and disabled people have much in common with each other, more than with other minorities. I should and probably will do a separate post on this, but, very roughly and briefly, I feel that the disabled and the queer are both shunned, shamed and discriminated against because of our bodies and how they function or are used in different or limited ways. (I said this was rough!)
The other thing that struck me was that, as we passed the judges’ stand, our entry was announced as part of the California "Let Freedom Ring" campaign. Same-sex marriage and, more significantly, "gay" wasn’t mentioned. This was a mistake, which I feel the No-on-8 campaign made and why the proposition won. By not mentioning "gay," the No-on-8 campaign reinforced the idea that it is a shameful thing, which - surprise, surprise! - the other side picked up and ran with.


  1. great post. and i TOTALLY agree about the similarities in discrimination because of our physical "differentness" and yes, i feel it is due a separate blog post. thanks for your writings, John. you're an amazing talent.


  2. Thanks, hit the nail on the head with your comparison, I think. While we are each individuals with unique stories to tell, there is much we share as human beings. I don't like labels much, but find them to be interesting tools for the discovery of commonality. The lessons learned by brothers and sisters, whatever their so-called "disability" can surely be used to benefit many.