PrideFest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been around for more than 25 years. Each June, on the first full weekend, tens of thousands of people jostle their way past protesters to meet, greet, dance, and prance with one another from across state and elsewhere in the Midwest. Vendors hawk their wares from oddly ubiquitous bed sheet sets to sequined rainbow fedoras with LED lights that twinkle. There might not be something or someone for everyone, but it would not be for a lack of trying. On Sunday, there is a traditional parade through city streets, floats and marching groups representing clergy, faith community, corporate LGBT employee resource groups, and some butt cheeks seeking air atop a truck bed.
As I drove by the starting point of the parade last Sunday while on an errand, I noticed a dozen people moving around, waving arms, organizing – or trying to – the groups as they assembled. Maybe it was because the sun was cooperating after days of warning that downpours were assured, but everyone seemed excited and happy to just be together.
The festival grounds were interesting, too. One of the stages had a series of fairly short activities in which festival-goers could join: zoomba, line dancing, belly dancing, and more. Around the stage, young people and adults did chalk drawings on the pavement, hung out, got photos taken, answered surveys, and tried on different occupations for a minute or more. The dance tent throbbed with music and movement. The big stage entertainment filled the air day and night.
It was delicious to the bone to witness so much joy and pride in this family reunion of sorts. It was particularly lovely to see Jennifer, Katie, Holly, Kay, Jacquie, Sue, Tina, Sheila, Dawn, Kim, and Kathy making things happen front and center and behind the scenes. I felt so much pride for the contributions of lesbians to make PrideFest, the booths, and the parade happen. From 14 to 74, they were everywhere, looking proud and sounding completely self-assured.
For many of the other weeks of the year, my lesbian family in Wisconsin writes brilliant posts on Facebook, blogs about big things in life, designs our community media, hosts community social events, teaches our youth, leads our social and political issues, and warmly welcomes us home. Velvet, Tanya, Rebecca, Cathy, Ann, Dao, Julia, Kathy, Kim, Ana, Sandra, and scores more are shaping our community through justice, housing, art, politics, corrections, higher education, government, banking, and more. When they are not around, I miss them. Some of them and many of their predecessors also nursed gay and bisexual men in the 1980s and 1990s, oddly dubbed “buddies” in AIDS care systems that struggled to witness fully their selfless love for our family. There is so much about which to be proud of lesbians.
You have got to love them.