Throngs of Participants Celebrate Marriage Equality at Pride Houston 2015 in City’s Downtown (Hashtag–LoveWins)

Throngs of people await the beginning of Pride Houston's LGBT Parade 2015. Previous years, I would have said

Throngs of people await the beginning of Pride Houston’s LGBT Parade 2015. Previous years, I would have said “lined up,” but there was no lining up for the masses that came to downtown Houston to be part of this event on this historic occasion.

On the heels of the only one-day-old Supreme Court’ announcement of marriage equality for the entire country, Houston was revved up for PrideHouston‘s showcase events, the festival and the parade.  Besides tremendous legal decree, another major change for the Houston LGBT events was the move from the Montrose “gayborhood” to downtown Houston.

i, personally, made some changes.  Although for years, I had lived in Montrose and walked the few blocks to the parade, later I moved a bit further away and had to drive to Montrose, find a parking place, usually many blocks away, and then make the walk to Westheimer Road to view the parade.  Now for last six years, I’ve been 25 miles out in the suburbs and making the effort to go take in all of the parade is an even bigger decision.  I always love the feeling of being amongst “my people,” something that I don’t have out here, but when I think about standing out in the Houston heat and being jostled around by drunk straights, I have doubts about going.

These guys wanted me to take their photo from my perch on the bleachers, and I was happy to comply.  They were just part of the excited, very diverse of parade attendees.

These guys wanted me to take their photo from my perch on the bleachers, and I was happy to comply. They were just part of the excited, very diverse of parade attendees.

Mostly, though, I want to go, and this year, I decided that getting tickets for the Friends of Pride VIP bleacher seating was worth the cost.  In fact, it was.  With an open bar, all kinds of buffet food, incredible music, decent restrooms, and a gift bag to be filled with all kinds of LGBT chucherías.  The bleachers, though further back than the edge-of-sidewalk view that I had always taken in years past was a great vantage point, just across from the main stage, to enjoy all of the parade entries.

In fact, the mood of the event was of tremendous celebration, very much a victory celebration, and obvious harmony among all, even event organizers and law enforcement  I haven’t seen an attendance number estimate but from the throngs of people packing the downtown streets, there must have been many more attendees than last year’s 450,000.  The parade entries were diverse in types, many new ones added to those of previous years, with emotional members that kept giving off their excitement embed by that of all those smushed together along the sides of the streets.  It really was one of the best, perhaps the best, of all the parades I’ve been able to enjoy.

Mayor Annise Parker and wife Kathy Hubbard greet parade attendees. Competition to replace Mayor Parker when she leaves office (due to term limits) appears to be fierce as evidenced by the large number of candidates who appeared in the parade, trying to garner attention and possible votes.

Mayor Annise Parker and wife Kathy Hubbard greet parade attendees. Competition to replace Mayor Parker when she leaves office (due to term limits) appears to be fierce as evidenced by the large number of candidates who appeared in the parade, trying to garner attention and possible votes.

HFD's Ladder Truck 16 carries associated revelers on top as it makes it way down the Pride Houston Parade route.

HFD’s Ladder Truck 16 carries associated revelers on top as it makes it way down the Pride Houston Parade route.

One of the many floats in the parade--I really don't care that from my viewing spot many of my photos weren't very good.  It was a great place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the entrée event.

One of the many floats in the parade with Houston city Hall lit up in rotating rainbow colors in the background–I really don’t care that from my viewing spot many of my photos weren’t very good. It was a great place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the entrée event.

One of the many commercial entries, Kroger brought its bad of groceries to the parade.

One of the many commercial entries, Kroger brought its bad of groceries to the parade.

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Houston Gay Pride Parade–Version 2011

Houston Gay Pride Parade 2011 is off and running!Jonathan Lovitz, from LogoTV's "Set Up Squad" was one of this year's honorary grand marshals.

The 2011version of the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration (commonly known as the Houston Gay Pride Parade) was attended by a large crowd.  (I’ll be interested in what the official count will be.) The parade was lead off by the traditional HPD cruiser and contingent, followed directly by Houston’s own gay mayor, Annise Parker, with her partner, Kathy Hubbard at her side.

The crowd gathering before the start of the parade, here in front of Tomo's.

A broad mix of people came to view the Pride Parade. A few of them entertaining themselves before the start.

The unexpected is always expected at the parade.

Jonathat Lovitz, of LogoTV's "Setup Squad", one of the honorary grand marshals.

There was no lack of other politicians riding in the parade, including many of the current city council, and council wannabees, as well as state representatives and congresspeople.  There were a large number of groups representing a wide variety of gay interests, many who have participated year after year.  However, every year there are new participants.

Many things have changed about the parade have changed over the years.  For one there is a lot less police “presence” along the parade route.  Maybe that’s due to having a gay mayor.  There are perhaps more straight people than gay people that attend these days.  Sometimes, I wonder if they are really interested in the groups, or just want to get the beads that are thrown.  I saw more drinking than I have seen before, as illustrated by a 50-something woman, who eased in next to me, and screamed at every float or group.  Her name was Julie.  Yes, that’s what she screamed, “Hey, it’s me Julie.”  I hope she enjoys all her loot.   Yes, the Gay Pride Parade has changed.

The colorful float of Bunnies on the Bayou.

Gay Asians & Friends--this group is uniquely costumed year after year.

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association's entry.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's entry illustrates the parade theme "Live, Love, Be."

A perennial favorite, the boys of South Beach.

One of the many colorful contingents in the parade–this one is Jenni’s Noodle House.

See story and photos of 2010 Pride Parade here.

 

Houston Gay Pride Parade 2010

Mayor Annise Parker and partner Kathy Hubbard (facing camera) head up the Houston Pride Parade 2010

Give credit to the full moon if you want, but more likely it was not only great planning, but also the fact that Houston in the past year elected one of its own gay citizens as mayor, that made 2010’s Gay Pride Parade one of the most lively and quite well attended by a very diverse group of spectators and participants.  (From my own point of view, this parade was the best one since I began attending in the early 80s.)

Mayor Annise Parker, who was one of the honorary parade marshalls, and her partner Kathy Hubbard rode in one of the lead convertibles, and having a gay mayor seems to have positively affected many aspects of the parade.  There were many more elected officials in the parade than ever before.  And while, yes, it is an election year, I got the feeling that many of them were there because, now with a gay mayor, it’s “OK” to take part in the parade, and they also see the value of gay voters.

Tomo boys selling beer give some pre-parade interest

The parade entries represented a much broader spectrum than I’ve ever seen, from the traditional motorcycle and leather groups to businesses including a funeral home disco bus to a wide range of religious groups including Buddhists and (I think) pagans.

Starting at 8:45 PM, the generally smooth-moving parade ran just at about 2 hours, with very few people leaving early at has been the case in some years when the parade lost momentum because of long breaks between entries.  Many more floats and vehicles had pulsing music blasting out to the onlookers, of gay, straight, young,

Early spectators finding a spot to enjoy the pre-parade atmosphere in front of Bambolino's Pizza

old, sober, drunk and many other types, who were happily moving to the beat and catching tossed beads.  However, unlike last year, the atmosphere this year was one of festivity and communal enjoyment among among parade participants and spectators alike, rather than just a mad scramble to get the “loot’ tossed from the floats, as was my take on last year’s event.

Putting the final barriers in place before the parade

The metal barriers put along the streetsides were a better deterrent for keeping people from running out among the floats and other parade vehicles for dropped trinkets.  The parade volunteers did a good job of tossing misdirected beads out to viewers, and the police seemed to stay on task of keeping everything safe without

I'm not exactly sure what was happening, but I turned around and encountered this scene.

interacting a lot with parade goers.  This year there were no police on horseback out patrolling the street, after last year’s accident in which a woman watching the parade was trampled by a police horse.  Though one of the surprises of the evening was when I turned around and seven or eight of them were lined up behind me  on the corner of California and Westheimer.

Taquerias Arandas' mascot gettin' down to the beats from the Fuse float

One of the great things about the parade this year was seeing the broad mix of people both viewing and participating in the parade.  This diversity, somewhat due to the popularity of Mayor Parker, shows that more and more Houstonians see gay people and gay events as part of the entire Houston community, not “apart from” as has been the case in the past.

Houston Fire Department ladder truck, topped with reveling firefighters

(Though I have to admit, the photos I’m posting may not be as diverse as the event itself.  My blog–I’ll post what I like. I’ll upload more later.  Come back.)

The parade has changed and gotten larger, but one of the charms is that the floats and placards are, for the most part, created by the organizations themselves, not commercially made.  This “realness” adds even more connection between parade participants and spectators and makes for an even more festive atmosphere.  (“Festive”–that’s a gay word, ya know.)

KRBE and other stations brought the beat to the street

Link for post and photos of Houston Pride Festival (daytime)

Budweiser Beer Boys

Bead Vendor and Queer & Asian Houston (What more do I need to say?)

Bicycle Patrolman and Gay Asians and Friends (Houston--the city big enough for Gay Asians and Queer Asians (Now how much more diversity could one want?) But guys, you're really going to have to work hard to beat the Hello Kitties from last year.

Previous mayor of Houston and now gubernatorial candidate, Bill White, strides down the parade route, as he had done when he was Houston's highest official.

Always a place in the parade for some Pacific Street muscle--some of the crew from the Charles Armstrong Enterprises float (JR's, Montrose Mining Co, Meteor. and South Beach)

Stonewall Democrats prefer ass to elephant--(gotta love that)

Some "cueros" carrying the banner for Crystal Night Club

Out Houston City Council member, Sue Lovell

One of the best dancin' groups of the night--Gay Buddhists--I think, but not sure--my bad.

Where else but Montrose? Where else but the Gay Pride Parade?

Bubbling up with Bunnies on the Bayou and M2M Fashions

Part of the large Continental Airlines contingent

The full moon presides as the parade proceeds down Westheimer

   See story and photos of 2011 Pride Parade here.

Houston’s Mayoral Inauguration Day Brings Along Prayer and Protestors

Annise Parker, Houston's newly inaugarated mayor

Downtown Houston’s Wortham Center was the site for the public inauguration ceremonies of Mayor Annise Parker as well as city council members and other newly-elected officials on Monday, January 4th.  One of the Houston Chronicle’s political writers blogged the event.   Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. and the largest with an openly gay mayor.   Mayor Parker was the winner of a December 12th run-off election.  (Watch the new mayor’s inaugural speech here.)

A big surprise for me is that giving the prayer for the inauguration was Joel Osteen of Houston’s mega Lakewood Church, which is now housed in the building that was the previous arena for the Houston Rockets of the NBA (the Summit, later called Compaq Center).  I put this in almost the same category as Rick Warren giving the convocation at President Obama’s inauguration just a year ago.  It was only a couple of months ago when Osteen appeared on The View and said, “. . . homosexuality is not God’s best.”   If Osteen doesn’t think Annise Parker is one of God’s best, why did he consent to give the prayer at her inauguration?   Also why was he picked to speak by those doing the planning?

Osteen has a big draw in Houston, and I know some gay people that go to Lakewood.  I also know gay Catholics and gay Mormons.  I don’t know why gay people would want to belong to a church whose leader doesn’t think they are God’s best.  I also don’t know why gay people want to belong to any church that keeps hammering them down.

Speaking of hammering, some of the Phelps clan from Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church are in town to protest Annise Parker’s inauguration.  However, the Phelpses aren’t one-stop shoppers when it comes to hating;  according to their website (the name of which is such a pejorative that I would not deign to give them the satisfaction of writing it), they are making a 2-day trip of it  in order to picket a wide spectrum of venues, which include among others, the Co-cathedral downtown, the Holocaust Museum, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish school, and even Osteen’s own Lakewood Church.

Watch part of the ceremonies at the Wortham Theater:

(Click on Home for other posts on Annise Parker’s election.)

Annise Parker Officially Sworn In as Houston’s Mayor

It's official! Annise Parker is now the mayor of Houston.The cutline in the Houston Chronicle reads: "Mayor Annise Parker gets sworn in with her grandparents’ Bible, shown being held by Parker's partner, Kathy Hubbard, on Saturday. State District Judge Steven Kirkland administers the oath." (Photo by Jenny Antill)

Annise Parker became Houston’s mayor on Saturday (Jan. 2nd) as she was officially sworn in with her partner Kathy Hubbard at her side.  There will be a public inauguration on Monday.  After all the publicity surrounding the new mayor’s sexuality during the recent run-off election and after her win, the quiet ceremony indicates how serious and business-like Houston’s new top official will take her responsibilities.  Read the Chronicle‘s article here.

Houston Newspaper “Chronicles” the Life and Times of Annise Parker, the City’s New Mayor-elect

From the front page of today's Houston Chronicle

Now that initial surprise is wearing off that the fourth-largest city in the U.S. will soon have a top official who is gay, more in-depth stories about mayor-elect Annise Parker and those close around her are appearing in the media.  Today’s Sunday Houston Chronicle included articles by Joe Holley on Parker as well  as her partner Kathy Hubbard.  While the article on Kathy appeared both in the print and online editions (read it here), the article “Not So Shy Now” about the mayor-to-be appeared only in the print version as the lead photo story on page one that jumped to page eight, which it filled completely.  The Chronicle‘s sister paper, The Dallas Morning News, carried a shorter, redacted version of the Holley article online.

By reading news media and blogs from all over the world, it is evident that Annise Parker’s recent election here in Houston has grabbed the attention of those far afield from the Bayou City.  As of yet, no archives of the longer version seem to be available.  I have saved mine to pdf files (because I think it’s a piece of history work keeping).