During a week when this city was viscerally reminded of the country’s traumas, with March for Our Lives on the National Mall and insurrection hearings at the Capitol, D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade on Saturday was an exercise in joy.
Bubbles floated, drag queens strutted, children cheered from atop their parents’ shoulders.
Thousands gathered for the parade, which was back fully in-person after two years of modified celebrations because of the pandemic. The hours-long celebration spread along a 1½-mile route through the Shaw, Logan Circle and Dupont Circle neighborhoods.
Zsannette Olson, 50, her two daughters and one of their friends arrived at the parade after participating in the March for Our Lives rally earlier in the day. Exhausted after taking part in the solemn protests against gun violence, they were excited to enjoy the Pride festivities.
Still, Olson said they knew they weren’t just there to celebrate, but also to continue advocating for equality and safety for all.
“We’re definitely showing up more, making our voices heard, calling our congressmen and letting them know we’re not standing for it,” she said of recent legislation restricting LGBTQ rights.
This year’s parade comes at a time of political uncertainty for LGBTQ rights around the country. Florida legislators recently passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which bans instruction or discussion about LGBTQ issues in schools for younger students; critics call it the “don’t say gay” bill. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered investigations into the use of gender-affirming care for transgender children.
“These are bills that are affecting us and our education,” said Natalia Peña, 18, who just graduated from Hayfield Secondary School in Fairfax County.
Ryan Bos, executive director of the Capital Pride Alliance, said legislation threatening LGBTQ rights underscores the purpose and value of the parade and Pride celebrations.
“This is our voice. This is a time for us to be visible, to be heard,” he said. “With the threats around, it just overemphasizes the need for these events worldwide.”
Members of Whitman-Walker Health, a clinic that focuses on LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS health care, gathered at the start of the parade clad in purple T-shirts that said “We say gay.”
“We’re fortunate enough to live in a community that can be open about this, but not everyone can be as loud,” said Heather Alt, 38, who works as the clinic’s deputy director of nursing.
Kim Herrmann, 37, a 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 doctor and as their gender-affirming provider,” she said. “I’m here to really protect them and allow them to get access to health care like everyone else.”
This year marks Herrmann’s first Pride in D.C., and compared with events that she attended while living in the Midwest, she said Capital Pride feels much more like a celebration. She said she was excited to relax and enjoy the parade with her wife.
“There’s just so much of a community that’s here,” she said. “It doesn’t feel so anxious.”
Outside a restaurant, Jackie Segler, 40, added another rainbow flag to her motorcycle just before the parade began. In its basket sat her broken yet festive skeleton, Che.
Segler has lived in the District for six years and has attended Pride in the past, but this is her first since the pandemic began. She was ready to experience the energy of the celebration again.
“I feel like nobody judges you here,” Segler said. “Pride is my favorite holiday of the year in D.C. I have friends coming out that I haven’t seen in years, and it will be great to see them again.”
Last year, D.C. celebrated Pride with slimmed-down crowds along with a car caravan. In 2020, as marches were largely canceled, Pride organizers around the world offered virtual parades and events.
Capital Pride’s big return: Parade, Joe Jonas and plenty of parties
Saturday’s parade headlined a slate of events from Capital Pride this month. Joe Jonas’s band DNCE will play the Capital Pride festival and concert on Sunday, along with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winners Willow Pill and Symone.
On Saturday, revelers wore their Pride fashion finest: 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 viewing points as watchers climbed up to cheer on children from D.C. public schools who twirled flags and skipped across the asphalt. At the end of the parade route, men from the Mid-Atlantic Leather competition posed for pictures near vendors selling iced tea and unicorn masks.
Across the country, the presence of law enforcement at Pride has caused tension in many cities. In D.C., protests of the parade in 2017 resulted in the Capitol Pride Alliance creating a policy than banned uniformed officers from marching in the parade. Ahead of this year’s parade, a Capitol Pride spokesperson told The Washington Post that the policy remained in place.
“We have participated in conversations with law enforcement expressing our desire for them to acknowledge community concerns about having uniformed officers present in the Parade,” Marquia Parnell said in an email.
But on Saturday, multiple members of the D.C. police wore their full uniforms as they marched with the cohort surrounding Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). They handed out rainbow wristbands and beads, stopping along the route to greet and hug admirers. Dozens of other uniformed officers and D.C. police cruisers were stationed along the route monitoring the crowds.
The parade drew small counterprotests. In Dupont Circle, a small group yelling about sin was drowned out by the brass band thumping to “Shots, shots, shots.” But most parade-goers didn’t engage with the protesters, instead ignoring or laughing at them as they walked by.
Recent discussions on whether corporate sponsorship has a place in Pride celebrations came up in this year’s celebration.
Several companies, including Target, Visa, Mastercard, Airbnb and Lockheed Martin, had their floats for the parade.
One parade-goer held up a large check with “End Corporate Pride” in rainbow lettering. Protesters in 2017 disrupted the parade and said Capital Pride was more interested in corporate sponsors than supporting marginalized communities.
Bos said he believes there should be a balance and acknowledgment that many of those marching in the parade are members of the community working for corporations and demanding change from within their companies.
“At times when the government doesn’t have our backs, sometimes the corporations are there for us,” he said. “So our community is everywhere. We’re in the churches, we’re in the social groups. We’re in the nonprofits, we’re in the corporations and we’re in the government. We all are members of the community.”
Back along the parade route, many of the people celebrating said they were eager to show their support for LGBTQ causes.
Chris Ammon, a 51-year-old schoolteacher who lives in Falls Church, believes that his role as an ally of 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 ask who they’re for,” Ammon said. “And I tell them they’re for everyone.”
As cheers erupted from the crowd, Ammon admired the colorful sights on P Street.
“When people come out for this, they’re dressing up for the crowd, but also the truest version of themselves,” Ammon said. “When this community overcomes hurdles, they let their guard down and live their truest lives.”
In the world of wellness and alternative medicine, people are constantly seeking natural remedies to improve their health and well-being. One such product that has gained considerable attention...Read more