I remember my first Twin Cities Pride like it was yesterday. The prepossessing chaos of Hennepin Avenue, the energy in Loring Park, and the incredible concentration of GLBT individuals for one weekend in our Twin Cities. As a teenager, the first time was overwhelming, to say the least. Having not entirely come out to my family, I was fascinated, liberated, but still so very insecure. Like any teenager, I had a lot of insecurities about my body. I remember wearing baggy pants and a long-sleeve tee to Pride, embarrassed about the gangly and stick-like nature of my long limbs. An aesthetic I would later embrace as totally fashionable, for early 2000s John Mark, my first Pride experience was one that held dichotomized emotions of excitement and self-loathing.
While today I enjoy Pride as an exciting celebration of community, my teenage self could not help but spend the day comparing my underdeveloped body to those around me. It was the friendliness of the community that drew me out of my shell. I remember being so surprised by the incredible love and acceptance in the air. While there is nothing secretive about our Pride festival, as a young man, my attendance felt mischievous. An adventure full of secret glances, jaw drops, and giggles.
It took time to fully embody who I was as an individual and a gay man in society. Pride was a great stepping stone for me. Well over a decade later, I have much more confidence and, in addition to Twin Cities Pride, I have attended Pride celebrations in New York City and Shanghai. Twin Cities Pride is still my favorite.
Much like the city of New York itself, the Big Apple’s Pride is fun, but aggressive, intimidating, and for me, all too intense. West Village streets are packed and the people party hard. Shanghai’s Pride is depressingly small. Local businesses in Shanghai are reluctant to participate and much of the festival is confined to a few small blocks. Only publicized in English and only seven years old, Shanghai’s Pride is still a baby, fighting for its sheer existence. There is no blessing of a Pride festival we have in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
We draw a huge crowd from neighboring states. Our parade is diverse and a great representation of both our allies and GLBT community at-large. Our Minnesotan sensibilities create an atmosphere that is friendly, welcoming, and warm. Our local businesses are active participants in our Pride. Our local creatives present wonderful entertainment on stages both conventional and informal throughout the city. Our community embraces people of all walks of life. Our Pride is one that makes me proud to be a Minnesotan.
I was not present for the first Twin Cities Pride in 1972, but I can imagine that it has come a long way. This Pride, let’s keep our tradition of love and acceptance going strong. If you are like me, where years have passed with Pride as a simple routine, it can be easy to forget how momentous of an occasion in can be for those who are new to the community. Let’s keep an eye out for the insecure ones, the ones with slouched posture and a shyness that speaks volumes. A simple smile and a wave can do a lot. Twin Cities Pride is the best for a reason, and that reason is Twin Cities heart.