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It’s not every day that you see a full grown man dressed in a bikini, fishnet stockings and high heels. The image is startling to most, but to the hundreds of thousands of people who swarmed the streets of West Hollywood on Sunday, June 12, it was a beautiful thing.
It was the sight of zero inhibition, something society often discourages.
This was how many gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women took to the streets to celebrate their sexuality and promote a message of tolerance in the 41st annual Christopher Street West Pride Parade – the climactic event to this year’s month-long celebration of the LGBT community.
Over a dozen oiled up muscle men strutted their stuff in Speedos atop the bus of Micky’s West Hollywood Flaming gay bar; just a curb’s length away from a group of senior citizens from Gay & Lesbian Elderly Housing (GLEH). They paraded in tour buses, holding signs, which read, “Gray. But Still Gay,” “Closets for Mothballs,” “Oldies but Goodies,” and “George Sand Looked Like a Man.”
Also joining the masses Sunday were parents of LGBT children, city law enforcement officials, and a few celebrities who stirred up an emotional response from spectators and participants.
Andrew Johnson, a state correctional officer who made headlines last week when officials in his department barred him from attending the event in uniform, made a special press conference appearance with his attorney, Gloria Allred, just before the onset of the parade.
Johnson had filed a discrimination claim against officials at a women’s jail in Chino, Calif., stating that they told him he couldn’t attend the West Hollywood parade since his participation in it would “discredit” the department. Department officials have since retracted that statement, apologized, and are reviewing the policy by which that decision was made.
“It means a lot to me,” Johnson said at the intersection of Crescent Heights and Santa Monica Boulevards of what it felt for him to be at the parade. “I’m proud to be a correctional officer, and I’m also proud to participate in this parade.”
Comedian Margaret Cho and three-time national figure skater champion Johnny Wier spoke after Johnson and emphasized the continued importance of spreading lessons of tolerance and social justice today. An optimistic Cho said the fact that department officials apologized to Johnson for a regrettable mistake shows that society is moving in the right direction.
“Our community does not stand still anymore,” Cho said.
The parade, which began at 11 a.m. and moved westward along Santa Monica Boulevard, was a testament to Cho’s statement.
While people attended the event for many different personal and political reasons – like the married couple John Cressey and Greg Haines of Equality California, who are fighting to overturn Proposition 8 and pass legislation to stop bullying – all appeared to unite under the common bond of celebrating diversity and sharing an open mind.
“It’s this exciting spirit of community,” said first-time participant and Los Feliz resident Meghan McCauley. “And I love that spirit. It’s really important, especially in a big city.”
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