Capital Pride Parade: Thousands turn out for DC celebration

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In a week this city has viscerally remembered the nation’s traumas, with March for Our Lives on the National Mall and insurrection hearings on Capitol Hill, DC’s Capital Pride Parade on Saturday was an exercise in joy .

Bubbles floated, drag queens strutted, children clapped from the top of their parents’ shoulders.

Thousands of people gathered to the parade, which was back entirely in person after two years of celebrations altered because of the pandemic. The multi-hour celebration took place along a 1½ mile route through Shaw, Logan Circle and Dupont Circle quarters.

Zsannette Olson, 50, her two daughters and a friend of theirs arrived at the parade after taking part in the March for Our Lives rally earlier in the day. Exhausted after participating in the solemn protests against gun violence, they were excited to enjoy the Pride festivities.

Still, Olson said they know they’re not just here to celebrate, but to continue standing up for equality and safety for all.

“We’re definitely showing up more, raising our voices, calling our members of Congress and letting them know we’re not standing up for it,” she said of recent legislation restricting LGBTQ rights.

This year’s parade comes at a time of political uncertainty for LGBTQ rights across the country. Florida lawmakers recently passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill, which prohibits the teaching or discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools for younger students; critics call it the “don’t say gay” bill. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott (right) has ordered investigations into the use of gender-affirming care for transgender children.

“These are bills that affect us and our education,” said Natalia Peña, 18, who just graduated from Hayfield Fairfax County High School.

Ryan Bos, executive director of the Capital Pride Alliance, said legislation threatening LGBTQ rights underscores the purpose and value of the Pride parade and celebrations.

“This is our voice. This is the time for us to be seen, to be heard,” he said. “With the threats all around us, it just overstates the need for these events. in the whole world.”

Members of Whitman-Walker Health, a clinic that focuses on LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS health care, gathered at the start of the parade dressed in purple T-shirts that read “We say gay.”

“We’re lucky to live in a community that can be open about it, but not everyone can be so vocal,” said Heather Alt, 38, who works as the clinic’s assistant director of nursing.

Kim Herrmann, 37, pediatrician at Whitman-Walker, said it was crucial to demonstrate the importance of the care she provides.

“I serve the trans community as a primary care physician and as a gender-affirming provider,” she said. “I’m here to really protect them and allow them to have access to health care like everyone else.”

This year marks Herrmann’s first Pride in DC, and compared to events she attended while living in the Midwest, she said Capital Pride felt much more like a celebration. She said she was excited to relax and enjoy the parade with her wife.

“There’s so much of a community that’s here,” she said. “He doesn’t feel that anxious.”

Outside a restaurant, Jackie Segler, 40, added another rainbow flag to his motorbike just before the parade began. In his basket sitting his broken but festive skeleton, Che.

Segler lived in the District for six years and attended Pride in the past, but this is her first since the pandemic began. She was ready to feel the energy of celebration again.

“I feel like no one is judging you here,” Segler said. “Pride is my favorite holiday of the year in DC. I have some friends going out that I haven’t seen in years, and it will be great to see them again.”

Last year, DC celebrated Pride with smaller crowds with a motor caravan. In 2020, with marches largely cancelled, Pride organizers around the world offered virtual parades and events.

The big return of Capital Pride: Parade, Joe Jonas and lots of parties

Saturday’s parade topped a list of Capital Pride events this month. Joe Jonas’ band DNCE will perform at the Capital Pride festival and concert on Sunday, alongside “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winners Willow Pill and Symone.

On Saturday, revelers wore their finest Pride attire: peacock feather capes, studded leather vests and fishnet crop tops. Rainbow flags and t-shirts were outdone by rainbow angel wings, rainbow thigh high boots and rainbow crochet bikinis.

Dupont Circle was packed with thousands of people. Bus benches became vantage points as observers rode up to cheer on DC public school children who twirled flags and jumped on the asphalt. At the end of the parade route, men from the Mid-Atlantic Leather contest posed for photos near iced tea and unicorn mask vendors.

Across the country, the presence of law enforcement at Pride has caused tension in many cities. In DC, protests against the parade in 2017 led the Capitol Pride Alliance to create a policy banning uniformed officers from participating in the parade. Ahead of this year’s parade, a Capitol Pride spokesperson told The Washington Post that the policy remains in place.

“We have participated in conversations with law enforcement expressing our desire that they acknowledge community concerns about the presence of uniformed officers in the parade,” Marquia Parnell said in an email.

But on Saturday, several members of the DC police wore their full uniforms as they walked with the cohort surrounding Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). They handed out rainbow bracelets and beads, stopping along the road to wave and hug admirers. Dozens of other uniformed officers and DC police cruisers were stationed along the road to watch over the crowds.

The parade drew small counter-protests. At Dupont Circle, a small group shouting about sin was drowned out by the marching band that echoed to “bangs, blows, blows.” But most parade-goers did not engage with the protesters, ignoring them or mocking them as they passed.

Recent discussions about whether corporate sponsorship has a place in Pride celebrations were addressed at this year’s celebration.

Several companies, including Target, Visa, Mastercard, Airbnb and Lockheed Martin, had their floats for the parade.

A parade goer held up a large check with “End Corporate Pride” in rainbow letters. Protesters in 2017 disrupted the parade and said Capital Pride was more interested in corporate sponsors than supporting marginalized communities.

Bos said he thinks there should be a balance and acknowledging that many of those marching in the parade are community members working for corporations and demanding change within their businesses.

“Sometimes when the government is not supporting us, sometimes the companies are there for us,” he said. “So our community is everywhere. We are in churches, we are in social groups. We’re in nonprofits, we’re in business, and we’re in government. We are all members of the community.

Back along the parade route, many celebrants said they were eager to show their support for LGBTQ causes.

Chris Ammon, a 51-year-old schoolteacher who lives in Falls Church, believes his role as an ally to the LGBTQ community is to support those who confide in him, especially his students.

“I have flags like the ones you see all around us and students are asking who they are for,” Ammon said. “And I tell them they’re for everyone.”

As cheers erupted from the crowd, Ammon admired the colorful views of P Street.

“When people go out for it, they dress for the crowd, but also the truest version of themselves,” Ammon said. “When this community overcomes obstacles, it lets its guard down and lives its true life.”

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