The hot summer sun beats down on the thousands of parade participants and what is estimated at a million or more attendees on a Chicago Sunday.
The forecast calls for rain, but that’s for at least another two hours, and right now it’s blazing.
This was my third year walking with the Rockford PFLAG group in the Chicago Pride Parade.
PFLAG is a group of allies, usually with family and friends in the LGBTQ community, who work to support the community in their towns.
Colors flashed through the air. People dressed in balloon costumes and as drag queens in giant angel wings.
The first year I was a part of it, it was like a dream come true.
Southern Illinois tends to have more conservative leanings than that of the Chicagoland area, and I had spent the last 10 years in a fairly small town.
While in the past I had participated in the festival, the first year I walked in the parade was so much more exhilarating than that.
The festivals tended to be targeted at more adult, 21 years old or older audiences, but the parade was perfect for a 17-year-old.
It’s an amazing thing to come from a small town and into a city that lines its street with rainbow flags during the month of June; it can also be a bit of culture shock.
Walking through the parade, watching the parade or attending the festivals can be a real turning point for some people.
Seeing yourself in other people, meeting other people like yourself and being surrounded by people who support you even when there are others who don’t can be an eye-opening experience.
Recent years have seen Pride events crop up in smaller cities across Illinois, including Peoria, Decatur and Champaign, which will celebrate its 10th year in September.
Even small events that invite LGBTQ people to places to celebrate in a safe space, such as the Charleston Carnegie Public Library’s Celebrate Pride event in June, can show younger members of the community that they have local support and a group that understands.
It’s been 50 years since the Stonewall riots, which sparked the beginning of the gay rights movement.
In those 50 years, the country and the world has come a long way to where we are now, but work is still needed on many fronts for LGBTQ individuals.
Pride events and participation by the community help to continue that legacy of acceptance and support.
Zoë Donovan is a junior journalism major. They can be reached at 581–2812 or at [email protected]