Sad Note on Houston’s Gay Pride Parade When Woman Hurt by Police Horse

Houston Police Department leads the parade, members definitely in a festive mood with sirens going and bullhorns asking for noise from the crowd. Totally positive attitude from HPD, definitely different from years ago--shows how far everyone has come.

Houston Police Department leads the parade, members definitely in a festive mood with sirens going and bullhorns asking for noise from the crowd. Totally positive attitude from HPD, definitely different from years ago--shows how far everyone has come.

Apparently, there was a woman trampled by a police officer’s horse down near Stanford Street during the parade last night. The comments to the Chronicle article are saying all kinds of things, but I was quite a few blocks from there, so I can say nothing about what happened in that incident.

However, nothing I saw done by the police last night was negative; most everything was positive and then some. They had a great contingent leading off the parade. The head car, in fact, was one they use for recruitment and several of the officers walking alongside were gay (based on my “gaydar”). The police cars had sirens going and the lead car driver was trying to liven up the crowd, shouting things like, “Let’s make some noise” over his bullhorn.

These HPD officers very cordial with everyone as they patrolled the parade.

These HPD officers acted very cordially with everyone as they patrolled the parade.

The couple of street patrol officers who were in the area where I was standing often let people cross the street between floats in nice, easy-going way. They kept people off the street, but most of the time while they were near me, they were chatting about “nothing”, not saying anything about the parade or the onlookers. One of them seemed bored, and was engrossed in text-messaging for a good, long while.

I was paying attention to all that because I can’t say I always have had a “love” for the police, and sometimes at past parades, I had seen them be somewhat aggressive in their crowd control.

But I thought the involvement of the police, the firefighters, and even a group of city employees says a lot about how far everyone has come since the early years of the gay pride parades.

The problem is that almost every entry in the parade throws out beads or some other kind of small, cheap favor and half of the people scramble out into the street to pick up dropped ones or even go up to the float riders begging for more. On top of that, many of these same people have no sense about their own safety, because they are so intent upon getting these trinkets, and for quite a few, the alcohol factor can be added in.

I thought to myself as I watched last night that I had never seen so many adults acting like children when they were going after these little bits of cheap nothings, and the meaning of the parade itself was only secondary in their frenzy to grab anything that might be tossed toward the side of the street.

Read more about Houston’s Pride Parade here.

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Gay Pride Houston 2009

At dusk, before the start of the parade--surrey tram bikes carrying parade-goers around.

At dusk, before the start of the parade--surrey tram bikes carrying parade-goers around.

View before the parade--Bambolino's Pizza--the big crowds are always further down--near the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer

View before the parade--Bambolino's Pizza--the big crowds are always further down--near the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer

Houston’s Pride Parade took place last night ( Saturday, June 27, 2009).  (Check out the 2010 parade here.) Not having gone last year, I decided to endure the heat and parking difficulties to go take it in. I’ve missed a few since my first parade in 1983, but not many. They changed through the years, but not so much. Houston’s Pride Parade is a typical parade of floats, marching groups, dignitaries, and commercial entries. Thousands of people attend, but the large majority watch from curbside rather than throng into the street as they do in some other cities.

Mayor Bill White gives me a wave.

Mayor Bill White gives me a wave.

Some differences from years gone by: fewer drag queens, fewer floats with muscle guys, fewer bar-sponsored floats. However, there are more marching groups of all kinds, more exuberant participation by public officials, police and firefighters, and many more business and corporate entries.

Likewise, the atmosphere has changed. What used to be a more raucous, festive parade with heavy-beat dance music pumped from the floats (there’s still a little of that) has become a sporadic frenzy of bead-grabbing, as almost every entry has colored chains and other chucherias to toss into the crowds alongside.

Part of the police contigent

Part of the police contingent

These crowds are definitely different from years gone by when it was mostly gays and lesbians and others of the “artsy” kind. Now it’s definitely a mixed crowd, and not exactly easy to always identify who is gay and who is straight or even “whatever”.

In my opinion, though, this Mardi Gras-like bead-tossing, while definitely bringing in a wider variety of people takes something away from the parade’s significance. So many people are jostling and running for the favors thrown out that they really could care less about the significance of the organization or people throwing them the “goodies”. Maybe this attraction helps make the many non-gays in the crowds more gay accepting. I think only the future knows if this is so. Anyway, the parade is a chance for everyone to have a good time and and enjoy the culture. Yes, it’s a culture, not a lifestyle, and a pretty fun culture if you get to know it.

(Check here for information about Houston Pride 2010.)

Some of the South Beach guys having a good time

Some of the South Beach guys having a good time

One of the more unique entries

One of the more unique entries

Gay Asians and Friends and "Hello Kitty"

Gay Asians and Friends and "Hello Kitty"

PFLAGHouston always gets a huge response from the crowds

PFLAGHouston always gets a huge response from the crowds

Guys from the Club Crystal float

Guys from the Club Cristal float

The Bunnies on the Bayou entry

The Bunnies on the Bayou entry

One of the many business and corporate parade participants

One of the many business and corporate parade participants

Impact Houston--one of the large number of activists groups participating

Impact Houston--one of the large number of activists groups participating