Pride follow-up 2: The SF Pride Parade — ‘Look at us!’ vs. ‘Look at me!’

Shredded tire? What shredded tire? I still can’t believe I actually made it to the parade in plenty of time.

So I had to do this once. I had to attend the San Francisco Pride Parade. And march in it.

Now that I’m out, and planning to work/live/play up in the Bay Area (that is, if anyone ever hires me again), I had to see for myself the size and scope of the City’s annual gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender celebration. I had to experience the spectacle I’d been hearing about all these years but never really had a vested (so to speak, nyuk nyuk nyuk) interest in.

And this was the 40th SF Pride Parade. And I’d get to experience it from the best seat in the house — on my two feet, walking the dozen or so blocks down the middle of Market Street from Spear to the Civic Center.

This was a big year for the transgendered contingent; for the first time ever, they were placed right behind the Dykes on Bikes (and their bicycle counterparts, the Mikes on Bikes) at the head of the parade. Someone passed around cards at the Trans March and Rally, two days before at Dolores Park, inviting any transfolk interested in marching to arrive on Spear Street, just around the corner from Market, at 10 a.m. to line up for the 10:30 step-off.

I hadn’t planned on marching, but if they were inviting us, then hell, why not? I had never marched in a parade before; could be fun.

So around 6 on the morning of Sunday, June 27, for the second time in three days and the third time in a week, I filled the tank of my ’93 Celica and headed up to the Bay Area — at least to Pleasanton, where I would board the BART to Embarcadero Station, half a block from the line-up point.

This ride truly was about to start. And I do live in interesting times.

Woke up at 4 to be out the door by 6 to make it to the city in plenty of time for the 10:30 step-off. I was making great time heading north on 99; there are very few cars on the freeway on a Sunday morning as the sun starts to make its way upward. The temperature is tolerable — a biggie when you’re driving a car without working AC in the central San Joaquin Valley — and you don’t have to worry about truck drivers pulling out in front of you going about 50 (on a 65-limit freeway) and passing other, even slower trucks.

I got to downtown Modesto, about an hour and a half north, and saw some small, unidentifiable piece of debris in the roadway, but not in time to avoid it with my right front tire. Shit. This one didn’t feel very good — small, hard, a little on the jagged side. I ran over it and hoped this wouldn’t come back to haunt me. Highway 99 is one of the most brutal torture tests a car can endure — the sometimes-unforgiving heat, the darkness, and desolation at night, the constant crap in the roadway that can shred a tire at a moment’s notice.

Besides, my worst fear during my gender transition has been that the car will break down on this godforsaken freeway, in this valley of ignorance and right-wing radicalism, and that I’ll encounter some towing guy who just won’t be tolerant of the girl in his midst who isn’t quite a girl. Maybe not a scene from Deliverance (“You shore got a purty mouth”), but something along those lines. Most of the time I carry a spare Hefty bag of boy clothes in the hatch, along with my makeup removal pads in my purse, just in case. As I did this particular morning.

About 10 miles later, in Manteca — a city whose name means “pig lard” in Spanish; I don’t make these things up — I was getting ready to exit 99 onto westbound Highway 120. The route to the Bay Area is easy enough, but it’s spread over about five different highways. It’s 99 to 120 for four miles, then a mile and a half south on I-5, then west on I-205 for about 13 miles before it runs into I-580 north, which carries you westward over Altamont Pass, out of the Valley and into Livermore. About 12 miles after that is Pleasanton and the easternmost station in the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

The 99 on-ramp to 120 is long — almost a mile — and it’s narrow. Break down there and you’re screwed. The ramp is too narrow for two vehicles, especially if one is a tractor-trailer.

And as I prepared to exit onto westbound 120, I felt the road surface getting rough. No, wait — that’s not the road! FUUUUUCK! That better not be my tire!

I navigated the flyover ramp OK — phew! — but two call boxes onto 120 —

BOOM! THWAP!

Thwabble thwabble thwabble!

Grind.

Full stop.

Hello, worst fear.

At about 10 to 8, there I was along the shoulder of 120 in beautiful Pig Lard, stopped with a shredded right front.

And to add to the fun, as I inspected the damage and took in the wonderful acridity of quasi-burnt rubber, I noticed I was also leaking some coolant. Not a lot, but just enough to think the radiator was leaking. This after having the water pump (and, since it’s connected to the pump, the timing belt) replaced two months before.

Double fuck.

One thing I decided quickly, calmly, rationally, was that I wasn’t gonna turn around and head back to Fresno. It didn’t make much sense at that point. I was an hour-40 into the trip already and only 40 minutes from the BART. Since I was making good time, if the tow truck arrived soon enough, I could be back on the road soon enough and still make the parade in plenty of time.

I got out of the car, which was about 30 feet from a call box. At least I know now that these things work. The guy on the other end — who called me “sir” (goddammit!) — patched me into AAA pretty quickly. They told me they’d have someone there in 20 to 30 minutes. So I went back, pulled the donut out of the hatch and pulled the wheel lock socket out of the glove box and waited for my man.

About 10 minutes later, the driver of a moving van hit his brakes and swung his rig over to the shoulder ahead of me. This would be a test. Would I pass, in more ways than one?

The driver looked to be in his early 50s, slight build, bald on top with reddish-brown hair and beard. He came over.

“Hi. Just wanted to see if you needed any help.”

You mean besides my voice?

“No, I’m okay,” I replied with a smile and the best femme voice I could come up with at the moment. “I’m just waiting for the Triple-A guy. But thanks so much.”

He smiled. “Well, you have a good day now.”

“You, too.”

That was the extent of it. I looked back to the traffic heading my way, and when I turned around again, about 15 seconds later, he was gone like Big Joe and Phantom 309. No trace.

So I passed, even in the sunlight, where I was sure someone would be able to see through the makeup to the growth concealed beneath, no matter how closely I shaved. I’m pretty sure my big, round, ’70s-Jackie O-knockoff shades were a big help.

And about 10 minutes later, a yellow van pulled up. The guy from the local AAA service was there about 10 minutes faster than I expected. He was a young guy, full head of hair, late 20s/early 30s, with shorts and flame-job tats up his lower legs. He, like the truck driver before him, didn’t read me — or, given the probability that he was out Saturday night, he really just didn’t give a shit this time of morning.

I don’t think he took more than 10 minutes and got me off again with a caution: “Don’t go past 65.” So I was back on the road by 8:30, accompanied by the windsong of burnt Bridgestone wafting from the trunk, permeating even the Hefty bag with the spare change of boy clothes that I thankfully didn’t need. I gingerly drove the car around 60 the rest of the way to Pleasanton and was on the train just after 9.

BART was running extra cars on its trains; in addition to the Pride festivities, there was the finale of the Giants-Red Sox series and, I believe, some other event in another part of town. By the time the train pulled into San Leandro, about three stops in, the car was almost full already. About a half-dozen revelers, four women and two men, were already preparing for the long day ahead; one of the boys was mixing drinks in his Thermos. This scenario was not going to end well, especially if the sun stayed out all day, as it appeared it would.

A passenger got on at San Leandro and sat next to me. Janice, a petite woman of Japanese descent in a tank top, running shorts and a bright new pair of white Nike running shoes with pink trim, was headed in to march in the parade as well. She was representing Operation Open Hand, an organization that provides meals to the elderly and HIV patients. It’s a group that doesn’t get a lot of attention but does a lot of good. She had just gotten up in time to run out of the house and catch the train. We had a nice chat the rest of the way into Embarcadero; she asked me about the transition and about coming in from Fresno; I asked her about her organization.

As we got off the train, she introduced me to a couple of young members of her organization who met her there, telling them somewhat proudly on this Pride Sunday, before we went our separate ways, “She came all the way up from Fresno to march in the parade.”

The escalator let me off right at the corner of Spear. I think I expected a lot more trans folks, but it was still about 10 to 10; it was still early.

The first trans girls I encountered were the River City Gems, from Sacramento. They were a sight: T-girls, mostly part-timers, dolled in most colorful late-19th-century dresses, with dainty white parasols to match. I made the acquaintance of one of the girls, a reddish-brown-haired cutie in a purple dress. Tiffany was telling me about her group. I’ve only been up to the capital city maybe three times since I’ve been here, twice on a flight to and from back home one summer.  But it’s nice to know that if I go up there, there are a lot of supportive people. I keep threatening to go up there; I have old Fresno Bee friends who live up there and are enjoying it. Maybe soon …

I certainly was no River City Gem. I was two-tone, a study in black-and-white: white Celtic top, black skirt, carrying my black cardigan, expecting another day as cold as the one I encountered two days before — and, for that Sunday-morning-best look, white tights and black patent Mary Janes. I guess the symbolism is pretty clear to me. Nothing screams “girl” more than white tights and black patent Mary Janes — a classic look … and, as a boy, one that was denied to me for so long. No more denial. Compared to quite a few of the marchers, though, Mary Jane girl was gonna be plain Jane, totally vanilla.

But I wasn’t out to make an outrageous statement; mine would be silent, and if no one knew but me, that was fine. Besides, I looked at the parade as a “look at us” moment, not “look at me.” To that extent, I brought an umbrella as well. The organizers asked the trans marchers to bring one to symbolize the fact that we, too, were under the LGBT umbrella. Besides, it would block the sun, which stood a chance to be hotter than I had planned for. (And the umbrella, too, as it turns out, was color-coordinated: white with black paisley; it matched my headband …) Along the line, one girl broke up the black-white moment by offering me a plastic lei; I went purple, my perennial first choice …

The trans contingent was starting to fill up nicely. Dozens of girls (and a few guys) made their way to our spot in the lineup. I met a couple of genetic girls and a guy who made the trip up from Visalia, 45 minutes south of Fresno, in their humongous red Ford pickup to participate. Outrageous or not, passing or not, it didn’t matter — we were ready for our close-up.

Just after 10:30, we felt the first signs of movement. The Dykes began revving the unmistakable, loud, deep-throated Harley pipes. The parade was off and marching. As we headed to the corner of Market, I saw something I would never, ever see in Fresno: A crowd of dozens of cops watching us walk past. Some held rainbow flags. Some waved. Some applauded. Some held the hands of their loved ones. Gay cops and maybe, if I read them right, a handful of transpeople in blue as well. Again, something I’d never see in the Central Valley.

And in the middle of the throng of SFPD, I took a double-take. Not that his presence was a big surprise or anything — after all, he’s only the mayor — but Gavin Newsom was standing in the midst of them, on the right side of Spear, with his stunning blonde wife. Newsom, a hero to the state LGBT community for allowing people to apply for gay marriage certificates before the state allowed it — even though it helped scuttle his gubernatorial aspirations and might hurt his chances at lieutenant governor this fall — is a very good-looking man in photos, but he’s that much better-looking in the flesh (and his hair is more of a reddish brown). We made eye contact; he gave me a slight bow, hands folded, as I walked past, and I reciprocated with an open-armed bow and a big grin in return. I’m not a star-struck person; I just thought it was cool to have this one bit of random bit of human contact, big-city mayor or not.

If you’ve never marched in a parade before, you’re not ready for the gauntlet that greets you. Well, not you in particular, unless you’re a celebrity riding in a car or on a float, but still …

There were solid lines of people on either side of Market Street, three-deep at their thinnest, about seven- or- eight-deep at their deepest. It was a humongous blur and it was just starting. People were cheering us just for existing. I guess that was one of the real rewards of walking the parade. Sometimes you just need someone to acknowledge you just for being alive. There generally are no rewards for trying to live a decent life. Not complaining — just saying, mind you. And it was nice to hear cheers — even if they weren’t directed at me specifically. I basked in the glow of the moment, of the group at large. I waved and I smiled as I made my way southwest down Market.

I should note at this point that the true reason I marched was so I could walk right down the middle of Market Street and not get hit by a streetcar. Or a regular car. Or a bus. Or a yuppie bicyclist. Just kidding. But I still had to watch myself; I learned that early on. You don’t notice this crossing Market at crosswalks, or even driving, but down the sides of the street, flanking the streetcar tracks, there are a lot of open, singing bridge-style steel grates, since the street runs above the MUNI and BART trains. And to make things more difficult, the grates had nubby steel stubs that stood up about an eighth of an inch. I could feel them through the thin soles of my shoes, and a couple times, I caught the toe of my shoe on a stud. The grates were definitely made for driving, not walking. So I chose to walk on the right side of the parade, avoiding the grates except when absolutely unavoidable.

As I walked, I scanned the crowd for faces I knew. I didn’t know if any of my friends from the Bay Area or Fresno would be there for the parade. I know a couple years ago, a Chronicle photographer snapped my friend and Fresno Bee colleague Jody Murray kissing his wonderful wife, Sara, on the forehead while they watched the parade; it made the slideshow the next day on SFGate, the paper’s website. But I couldn’t see anyone I knew, try as I might.

What I did see was a lot of people wearing funny hats. They were navy blue with red-on-white B’s on the front. Lots of Sawx fans. I won’t call them Sux fans, as I’m wont to do as a Yankee fan, because this segment of the Nation was out in force and supporting us. I never liked the Red Sox as much as I did this particular Sunday. “I like you in spite of the B on your head!” I shouted to one couple applauding us.

I mentioned in my post about Pride that I was bringing my friends and family along on the Trans March and the Pride Parade. And to that effect, I did bring along my own card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.

Joe Erwin worked with me at my first two papers: in Waterbury, where we were both sportswriters, and New Haven, where I was the entertainment editor and he worked a short while as a copy editor. In late November 2000, I was his phone-a-friend lifeline when he appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. (It was an easy question: In the movie, The Commitments were a soul band, a Celtic band, a punk band or a folk band. It at least gave him an excuse to tell Regis I looked like the singer from The Commitments. I’m glad to say I no longer look like Deco, but I still sing a hell of a lot better.)

Anyway, about two weeks after the show aired, I had my Christmas party, where he met his future ex-wife. I was an usher in the wedding in May ’03, the last time I ever wore a tie. And it was on Father’s Day 2004 — five years plus a Sunday before the Parade — that I met up with Joe and his ex-to-be the last time the Sox were in San Francisco. We spent a wonderful afternoon on the overhang of the last section in the right field upper deck at Willie Mays Plaza. It’s the most beautiful view in baseball: the Bay Bridge soaring beyond the Coke bottle in left, McCovey Cove full of homer-chasing kayaks to my right. Well, actually, it wasn’t so beautiful for Joe — Jason Schmidt threw a one-hitter at Boston. (But the Sawx went on to pull off the October miracle against the Yankees and then freeze over Hell. It all evens out.)

Joe is a hell of a great guy — looks like the milkman (just slap a white uniform and bowtie and cap on him) but has one of the deadliest deadpan senses of humor I’ve encountered. I came out to him last August; since he’s one of my job references, I figured he should know what was going on. I really didn’t know how he’d react, since much of our bonding through the years had been over sports. What he said, among other things: “When I get married again, I’d be proud to have you in my wedding again, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.” (Here’s to hoping he gets married again, this time for real, for good; if anyone ever deserves a wonderful wife, it’s him.)

That’s the sort of souvenir I carried with me when I marched this particular Sunday. The Nation made me think of Joe. As he told me a few days later in an email, “I’m not surprised at all the Sox fans were supportive. We’re good people.”

It was a great day to show the diversity among the trans community at large. Jubillee, a transwoman I had met the previous Sunday (via our profiles on urnotalone.com), was there with a support group for which she volunteers. Clair, a pretty post-op and one of my job counselors at the SF LGBT Center, was carrying one end of the banner of the organization for which she works, the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative, which narrowly escaped being a city budget casualty earlier in the month. Other transpeople were taking the warmth from the crowd and reflecting it right back at them.

And then the queens had to get into the act.

Well, not all of them. There was, for example, a group of guys in mustaches and beards wearing fairy costumes of various fluorescent colors, and they were pretty cool and just having fun with the rest of us.

But there were three who just had to call attention to themselves and suck all the eyes (and cameras) from everyone else.

The first was Runaway Bride. She was tall (probably 6-5 in her 6-inch platform heels), thin, statuesque, early 50s, silvery hair cropped close, a short-haired version of Terence Stamp in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And she wore a haute-style short wedding dress with a long train that she carried. And she ended up right in front of me. And every 30 seconds for the next few minutes, until I could fall back and put some distance between us, it was a falsetto shouting, “Yoo hooooo! Runaway briiiiide! Catch me if you caaaaaan!” Maybe it had something to do with the gay marriage issue. Maybe not. But she got on my nerves pretty quickly. Well, she was perfectly in her right, right?

The second was actually kinda cool, but again, I attracted another attention-seeker right in front of me. I’ll call her the Butterfly Collector. She wore a pith helmet and some sort of flimsy, meshy, greenish material which flowed and had several butterflies attached to it. It was actually a clever costume, but I was bemoaning the fact that, for the second time in 15 minutes, I had the misfortune of being right behind someone sucking all the attention from the rest of us.

But then there was the one I’ll call Tits.

Tits was at the Trans March as well. She’s an amazon Latina, about 6-3, who walks around topless. And she seems to have just two big things going for her, the finest two things plastic surgery could buy. (To sound like a total, 110% bitch about it, save for her height and her assets, she was definitely not a looker, and I’m being generous.)

She was a spectator at the start of the Pride Parade, along the right side, about a third of the way down the route. But as we passed by, Tits just couldn’t help herself. She climbed over the metal barrier and joined the fun — and, once again, right in front of yours truly, the ol’ Queen Magnet herself. And every five seconds, Tits stopped and jiggled up and down and swirled her boobies all around to the delight of every camera in captivity. And no matter how much I slowed down, tried to keep a distance from her, she seemed to slow down as well! I can’t believe I haven’t had nightmares about her.

Sure, this was San Francisco, and sure, anything goes there. (Look up the Folsom Street Fair, the Exotic Erotic Ball and the Fetish Ball at your leisure.) But San Francisco is also the city that leads the league in self-absorption. And in a precarious political and social time — when mainstream people are just finally, slowly starting to come around to transgenders in general, and trans rights stand in danger of being shunted to the side (Remember the HRC and Barney Frank throwing T’s under the bus to try to get ENDA passed, unsuccessfully, in ’07) — Runaway Bride and most especially Tits hijacked the attention from the community at large, turning a “Look at us” celebration into a cheap, juvenile “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” photo op.

We see you! We see you! We can’t help but see you!

But there were plenty of fans supporting us in general and the parade as a whole. Tits aside, I was still able to bask in the rush of having so many people show us affection. I couldn’t find a right moment to do this for real, but inside there were several moments where I wanted to scream to the crowd, “How fucking wonderful are you!”

We passed the main review stand in front of UN Plaza, where I shouted a thank-you to members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I first read about the city’s venerable drag nuns as a teenager; they’ve been carrying the flag for us for so long, they deserve to sit back and let us carry on. Also in the stands, I could’ve sworn I saw Tim Robbins, but I’m not sure; sure as hell looked like him, though.

The parade turned left a block south and then dispersed. It was just over an hour. Then I made my way over to the celebration site to take it all in, a mini-city that would form as more marchers came to the end of the route.

The center of the party was the giant stage in front of City Hall —  where, at some point late in the afternoon, the Backstreet Boys, on their comeback tour, were to perform (probably to their biggest crowd on the tour). The party grounds stretched straight back through UN Plaza to Market, and at least a dozen surrounding blocks were loaded with activities: three auxiliary stages I could count, a dance floor for country line dancing, a Folsom Street-style Leather Alley for the fetish gear, and block after block of foods and drinks and products and LGBT services.

Unlike the Fresno post-parade party, where they make you pay five bucks to walk through two blocks of merch booths and a performance tent, admission was by true donation, with volunteers walking around with 5-gallon buckets. If you donated $5, you got a sticker good for drink discounts.

Walked in past the country line dancers, who were already going full on, and made a pass through the blocks full of merch. I realized it was getting near noon and the temperature was climbing, and I saw a table selling a San Francisco treat I’d heard of but never tried: an Its-It. It’s (or is it Its? Or Its-It’s?) a cross between a Chipwich and an Eskimo Bar: two cookies with ice cream in between, dipped in chocolate. I remember talking with my dearly departed cubicle neighbor at the Bee, Tom, about them once or twice. That was enough incentive to try one, let alone the heat. It was OK; like the parade, I had to I do it once. The cookies were oatmeal, which I wasn’t crazy about, but it wasn’t poisonous, just fattening.

I grabbed a $3 bottle of water (which wasn’t the ripoff it seemed, as the proceeds went to a shelter for LGBT youth) and a gyro and realized my feet and knees were starting to hurt. I found a trans tent in the corner of City Hall Plaza, stage right from the main stage, and sought a little shelter.

The trans spectrum is pretty broad, except that some of us ain’t broads and some of us sure ain’t pretty. Some girls strive to pass and will go to any extreme. Some don’t pass and either don’t care or can’t afford to get the work done that they want and need.

Some girls look perfect; one of the girls working the table inside the tent was one of the four young, hot trans performers, teens through early 20s, who did a dance routine at the Trans March. This girl (I’m whiffing on her name, but I think it’s a derivative of Paul) is simply gorgeous, and she doesn’t look like she was ever a boy a day in her life. (Her voice passes wonderfully, too.)

Others were in needs of shaves, or hair, or a lot of other things. I recognized some of them from the Trans March, or maybe a couple from workshops last year at the LGBT Center. One of the reasons I decided to remain based in Fresno, with occasional stays with friends in San Francisco to do job hunt-related things, is because I needed to stretch my unemployment check to handle the start of the transition — the therapist (who’s out of my network) and the doctor’s visits and hormones. I can’t even imagine trying to transition in San Fran on low-to-no budget. I wish San Francisco had its pre-yuppie, pre-dot-com standard of living, combined with 2010’s social awareness. It shouldn’t have to be that hard for a girl to get by.

Some faces, as I said, were familiar. Stephanie, a blossoming young rock’n’roll chick who I met on job workshops last year and ran into two nights before at the Trans March, stopped in, looking summery in her bright sun dress. One older, thin blonde came in wearing the same bright red T-shirt my friends Dani and Susie were wearing at Dolores Park. She introduced herself as Bo Derek, and I could easily see the inspiration and the slight resemblance. She’s studying to be a paralegal and Dani’s helping her.

But I didn’t feel a lot of camaraderie. I sat there mostly by myself. I really don’t feel I have a lot in common with a lot of trans girls, save for the one obvious thing. I’m thinking that part of it is because my friends before coming out are still my friends, and in addition, I’ve met a lot of new friends since being out, and I live and function pretty visibly in the mainstream world. Also, save for these blog posts and questions from my friends, I don’t talk about the transition in everyday life. I don’t even talk about clothes and shoes and makeup very often. I just live and flow like everyone else.

This blog gives me a forum to talk about it, let my friends and family try to better understand what I’m going through, maybe focus some ideas for my version of the book of a lifetime. But if I talked about this all the time, everyone would get sick of me, and I would be sick of myself even sooner. And in a circle of transpeople, I would be forced to talk about being transgender, which may be the only thing we have in common, when it’s just one of the many facets of my life. A pretty honking big one, true, but just one of many. Now if a transgirl wanted to talk about music and history and cars and the current state of the world at large, and maybe just a little bit of fashion talk, maybe go out for dinner and a movie, fine …

Anyway, after about a half-hour of sitting, I walked around a little more. I realized around 1:30 that maybe, just maybe, I should have brought some sunscreen. I was starting to feel it —  not as much on my face, where my makeup was giving me SPF 15 or 25 (I forget), but on my unprotected chest , and in a low-cut top, to boot.

I walked along UN Plaza and decided my legs and feet needed another rest. And actually, so did the rest of me. Maybe it was the sun, or maybe it was being up at 4 to get ready for the long drive. Maybe it was just the sensory overload — an endless stream of rainbow-themed clothing items, girls holding hands with girls, boys holding hands with boys, people sporting the colors of their favorite sports teams, a group of older, hairy guys sporting nothing at all for no real reason except that they can (and, in the process, exposing their shortcomings to the world). The walls along the courtyard at UN Plaza had recessed stone benches, and I saw an empty one. And I sat. And I vegetated, purse clutched tightly by my side in case I nodded off, lapsing into semi-consciousness as the world passed me by.

Occasionally it would occur to me that perhaps I should get up and at least get the hell out of the sun. The spirit was willing but the flesh was extremely weak. I couldn’t get up. An older black woman, sitting with her man on the next bench to my left, said reassuringly, “You don’t want to get up. You don’t want to give up that seat.” I couldn’t argue that one, so I didn’t. Back to semi-consciousness. But I did realize that maybe the tights weren’t such a good idea at that point, and that maybe I should’ve left the cardigan in Pleasanton. But I had prepared for a day like Friday — cloudy, breezy, upper 50s to low 60s — and not Sunday, in the 80s and sunny. (Since when does the temperature ever get above 80 in San Francisco this time of year?)

At one point, an early-20ish black girl came up to me and placed her hands on my chest, as if to either give a healing touch or place some sort of sticker on me, which is what it felt like. But it wasn’t. And then she left. But as bizarre was it was, it was also harmless.

It took me close to an hour, but I finally mustered the strength to get up again. I ran into my Fresno friends Andrew and Clint once again. I hung out with them at the Trans March as well. They were waiting to get into a fenced-off area called Fairy Village. I was heading back to the shade of the trans tent. I stopped at a booth for another bottle of water, where I encountered a black lesbian couple. The butch of the couple, with extremely close-cropped hair and a blinding white tank top, was Lucky; her curvaceous, long-haired girlfriend was Bella. Lucky asked if she could take my picture, to which I gladly obliged, so I posed with Bella and shared hugs with them and headed off to the tent. Just another random moment of human contact with positive overtones.

Back at the tent, I downed the rest of my water; by that time, there were a few cases of water bottles stacked in a corner, and one of the girls working the tent offered a freebie; I sure wasn’t turning it away.

I took some time to call three of my favorite girls back home. I managed to get Paola, and we caught up for nearly a half-hour, which is always a wonderful thing. Later on, Lexy called back as well. Lexy-Lex, a free spirit if there ever was one (who I met through Paola in the early ’90s), was the first friend back home I came out to two years ago (and if you can’t come out to a lesbian, then whom can you come out to?); Paola, one of my dearest friends in the universe (and an ex-girlfriend), was another of the first. I needed to share the day with them, and so I did.

Throngs of people made themselves mini-camping spots on the grass outside the tent. One person in particular warmed my heart. She was a teenager, biologically a boy, with a short-on-the-sides, curly crop of brown poodle hair, sitting with a couple of her genetic girlfriends. She was tall and skinny in that awkward ugly-duckling, pre-swan phase. But the swan was just starting to emerge. Her makeup was done beautifully, and she sported a 4-inch pair of peep-toe pumps to go with her stovepipe jeans and pink T-shirt. She looked like the poster child for every slight, effeminate boy who gets harassed and beaten in school — except that she, at least, on this beautiful day, was flying her flag happily, effortlessly.

Maybe it’s the Glee effect: Chris Colfer (who is actually from Clovis, the highly intolerant redneck cowtown that borders northeast Fresno) has made it cool, at long last, for gay, effeminate boys and/or budding trans girls to be themselves. In any case, I was thrilled to see her be out and happy — not to mention a little jealous that I couldn’t have been out at that age, too …

So by 3:30, I was Prided out. More like sensory-overloaded out. I was getting tired. The Grinch in me was snarling, “The noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!” Too many decibels, too many riots of color. And I was sober! But I did notice the alcohol having effect on people. Blissed-out revelers dancing in front of stages and on top of industrial storage containers, the high-speed staccato bass boomp!-ba-doop-bo-boop!-da-boop-boop-boop! making me feel like I was in the middle of one of those insufferable goddamn nightclubs, except it was outdoors in mid-afternoon. There was nothing else new to see, and my body was telling me I was actually 49 and not the 35 I usually look or the 26 I usually feel.

So off I went to the MUNI, waiting for an outbound car amid a bunch of young, sloppy, drunk revelers, and to the 22 bus at Church. I needed to chill for a little while in silence in my comfort-zone part of town: Fillmore from Pine to Sacramento. I didn’t stop at my MAC, but my Israeli friend Steve was behind the counter at Tango Gelato next door, and I sat down for a nice little cup. Then it was up to The Coffee Bean, where my pal Suzy was working. We chatted for a little while as I sat and took in some caffeine for the long trip back — made a little longer by my tire trouble and radiator anxiety — and realized for the first time just how red my chest was from the sunburn. I wasn’t in pain; just deep red. Which I hoped would mellow soon into a serious tan that would hold me the rest of the summer.

A little past 8, I was on the train to Pleasanton. I topped my radiator with antifreeze and water, hopped in and started the gingerly drive back. Again, I kept the car at 55-60, so as to not add any undue pressure to my spare donut, and in a bit of necessary masochism, I would crank up the heater full blast every 15 minutes or so, in 10-minute intervals, to divert some of the heat from the engine compartment.

Whaddya know — I was home around 11:40, after which I turned on the portable AC unit in my room and jumped in for a loooooooong shower.

So after all this, I don’t know if I ever need to do another Pride celebration.

As I said in an earlier post, I have a hard time with the concept of being proud of the way you were born — being proud of something over which you have no say. I mean, I’m proud of my family and friends, and I was happy to carry them in my hearts when I marched in both the Trans March and SF Pride, and I’m proud of the way total strangers have embraced me, from newfound friends in the Tower District, to the girls who asked me to sit for a photo with them at Dolores Park at the Trans March, to Lucky and Bella at the Pride fest.

But I don’t know, as social awareness takes hold and old ignorances (and the people who carry them) die off, how much longer there’ll be a need for Pride festivities.

At least for a little while longer, though, Pride celebrations still do hold an important purpose. As long as we have to fight political fights to get rights that should be given to all people who call themselves Americans, then the shows of strength in numbers are necessary. It could be Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which finally is ready to be dismissed permanently. Or gay marriage, as U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco readies to make his ruling on the legality of Prop 8. (This week, his Boston counterpart, Joseph Tauro, ruled the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.) Or a federal ENDA law that includes gender identity among the outlawed forms of workplace discrimination. Just this morning, I read that Don Carcieri, the governor of Rhode Island, vetoed a bill that would have included gender identity in the state’s Hate Crimes Monitoring Act.

But it seems, from what I saw, that much of the political aspect of Pride is lost on many revelers. It could be the aforementioned queens in the parade who stole everyone’s thunder and turned look-at-us into look-at-me, or partiers just looking to get drunk or seeking a hookup. But I sensed a lot of people who didn’t really give a shit about anyone else, who looked at this as just another excuse to party mindlessly.

I’m making a political statement, however unconsciously, as a transgendered person living an everyday life. I ride my bike, I look for work, I shop, I write, I go to the Tower District and meet my friends, and just by doing the things I normally do, I guess I’m saying, in my subtle way, that I belong here as well, and that, save for one thing, I’m no different from the rest of you. And I deserve as much respect — and as many rights — as you would give anyone else. I don’t need to walk in a parade to do that.

But it was fun to do it once, to experience the spectacle firsthand from the best spot in the house. Maybe I’ll do it again someday if I end up living in the Bay Area and/or if the political show of might is still necessary. But I’d rather focus on doing the everyday things that would make me proud or make others proud of me.

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11 Responses to “Pride follow-up 2: The SF Pride Parade — ‘Look at us!’ vs. ‘Look at me!’”

  1. kathryn Says:

    Way to go Frannie! I am so proud of you!

  2. Bob garvin Says:

    cheers! still in CT love, Garvin

  3. It's Drew! Says:

    I’m proud of you too. And I love those shades!

  4. Jackie Says:

    What a great story Fran. I cant believe someone just came up and put their hand on your chest, how bizarre. It sounds like the vibes from the crowd were positive and purely amazing! Im happy you got to experience it, despite the big boob’d glory hogs! And Im with ya on the “its it” not really my bag either.

    just out of curiosity….Did you go by yourself by choice?

    • franoramaworld Says:

      A little of both. There was no way I would be able to afford a room in SF, my friends up there were out of town, and I wasn’t quite sure until late in the game that I was turning right back around and heading back up again after the Trans March. Also, I didn’t know anyone in Fresno who was going. Of course, after the fact, one of my friends, who went with her partner and some other friends, emailed me and said “Dammit, Fran, why didn’t you tell me you were going?”

  5. Karen Olson Says:

    What a great experience!! And you look fabulous, dahling!!

  6. How I spent my summer vacation (aka Labor Day) « Franorama World Says:

    […] gotten up to San Francisco three times this summer: for the Trans March and the Pride Parade in June, and a great girls’ afternoon out early last month with my friend Lorraine, a fellow […]

  7. This car of mine … « Franorama World Says:

    […] the big reality check. At the end of June, en route to the San Francisco Pride Parade, I noticed, as I was waiting to have a flat replaced, that my radiator was leaking. I took it to […]

  8. My Pride parade « Franorama World Says:

    […] time to time, one of whom has shown a subtle but huge amount of support). And between last year and marching in San Francisco’s parade two years ago — and my souring on SF in general — I think I have this marching thing […]

  9. MaXi PixGirl Says:

    I am also going thru similiar anxiety driving the 5hours in the dark to Woods Hole this am… I can’t believe you wrote about MY EXACT FEAR! So glad everything worked out for you! Terrific article! So proud in more than one way of you, Frannie! Love the shades, btw

  10. MaXi PixGirl Says:

    ohhhhhhh the horror! spelled similar wrong…

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