A Story for the Homo-Centric Reading Series
Read for the One City, One Pride Arts Festival
In Celebration of West Hollywood’s 30th Anniversary
Being a polysemic word, Pride means something different between members of the LGBT community. Whether it’s getting the masses to sign a petition, dressing in drag as a cultural protest, safely holding hands with a loved one in public or donning a colorful ensemble, these acts represent Pride. Los Angeles Pride is a smorgasbord of the above times twenty. At my first L.A. Pride, I had the opportunity to walk in the parade with Erase Doubt, an L.A. County-wide safe sex campaign. For the parade, I had to bounce a giant black beach ball that towered over my head. To launch it high up in the air, I lifted the ball above my head and smashed it to the ground. My arms cramped up from exhaustion after two minutes. Another guy had a matching beach ball. Printed prominently on our black balls was the AIDS virus.
Before the parade, I practiced what I would say to attract attention to our group. I settled on, “come stroke my black balls” and “don’t you want to juggle these?” Other people from our group would pass out condoms, beads, t-shirts, and drawstring bags with AIDS ribbons.
I was expecting a large crowd, but what I wasn’t expecting was the number of people that would greet us from the sidewalk. Thousands cheered, waved, high-fived us, stroked my ball, asked for pictures, and selfies. After the parade, an on-looker said it was quite a sight to see two colossal black balls bouncing toward The Abbey.
This year Pride turns forty-five, and that experience made me think about the first Pride in West Hollywood. How did those first walkers feel being greeted not only by the cheers of hundreds, but also hundreds of protesters? It must have been the disquiet that promised to suck the air from their lungs faster than a thumbtack through a balloon. For those brave men and women, I proudly bounced my giant black ball through West Hollywood.