Pride parade of one

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For the first time since 2008, I’ll be celebrating without a parade of thousands of people covered in hundreds of pounds of glitter. 

By Ryan Howe, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment | June 19, 2020

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My birthday is in less than a month, and for the first time since 2008, I’ll be celebrating without a parade of thousands of people covered in hundreds of pounds of glitter. 

Every year, no matter where I’m at, my birthday always aligns with that city’s Pride celebration. This year would have been the same, but the pandemic has forced the annual celebration of my birth and the queer revolution into the virtual world -- something I’m struggling with. 

When I was 17, I loaded my tiny, bright-red Dodge Neon with bottles of water, three queer peers, and our homemade signs and we set off to Indianapolis’ Pride parade. Relying on printed directions from Mapquest and my Neon’s questionable drivability resulted in us missing the parade and sweating through our new shirts. 

Our late arrival and musty smell put me in a bad mood. Luckily, even my worst moods can be cured by a deep-fried corn dog and way-too-sweet lemonade, and Indianapolis Pride is stocked with both. Reality finally set in around mid-day while I stood in the grassy patch right in front of the stage. I looked around and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t one of the few queer people in the room. I was surrounded by thousands of them celebrating their queerness unapologetically. In true Cancer form, I cried until one of my friends wrapped their arms around my neck and yelled, “Happy Pride, nerd!”  

No group chat will ever replace the freedom of being completely surrounded by your people. 

At 22, I was spending the summer in my ex-boyfriend’s cramped apartment in East Harlem. I was interning for NYC’s LGBTQ newspaper Gay City News and spending most of my birthday and Pride covering different events throughout the city. The only thing I had planned for myself was an all-night drag show/dance party in Brooklyn. In life, there is nothing greater than cramming your body onto the dance floor and dancing. Around 4 a.m., my then-boyfriend latched his sweaty body onto mine and yelled, “Pretty good Pride, huh babe?” 

No email thread will replace the joy of sharing the sweaty dance floor with your community. 

When I was about to turn 27, I had the opportunity to share my love of Pride with a high-school intern I had been working with since her freshman year. We lapped around Denver PrideFest’s map of booths and found ourselves in the grassy part of Civic Center Park. I watched as she scanned her surroundings and a small smile crept across her face. I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and yelled, “Happy Pride, nerd!” 

No FaceTime will replace the joy in giving someone a Pride hug. 

But this year it has to. COVID-19 has me celebrating my birthday and Pride from the comfort of my living room. My three roommates will replace the thousands of bodies huddled under the sun. My bedroom will serve as the dance floor for one (sweaty) body. And Facetime will have to do for now. 

Keep the spirit of Pride alive and keep your community healthy by keeping our social circles small to limit the spread of COVID-19. Share your love and Pride in new ways. Attend as many virtual Pride parades as you want. See how other parts of the country celebrate Pride. Show the rest of the world some of Colorado’s Pride. Support your local community and dance with yourself, your friends, or strangers on the internet. 

For a full list of Denver PrideFest’s virtual Pride, check out denverpride.org.