OP-ED: Why I Dream of Madrid Pride for America
Earlier this month I went to Madrid Pride for the first time. A good friend told me that I need some controlled chaos in my life right now, so I made an impromptu decision to meet him and his group for five days of Spanish adventure. Controlled chaos is a perfect description for Madrid Pride, which happens the first weekend of July. At Saturday’s main Pride Parade down the Gran Via, an estimated 1.5 million people line the streets and plazas of Madrid to celebrate. That crowd is so large throngs of straight people join LGBT revelers in what is more a citywide street party than just a gay Pride festival. As I watched masses of Spanish straight people equal if not outnumber the gays, I wondered whether this could happen one day in America. Can we get to a point where straight people flood Pride parades to celebrate gay life? I sure hope so, and that’s why I dream of Madrid.
First, I dream for the day when the U.S. catches up with Spain on LGBT rights. Spain is one of about 10 countries that give same-sex couples the right to marry. It also has a broad range of antidiscrimination laws, permits adoption of children by same-sex couples, and allows openly gay and lesbian people to serve in the military. While there is, of course, more to achieve for full equality, modern Spain (especially in its urban centers) is a terrific model for the integration of LGBT people into society. Perhaps that is why Madrid’s Pride event is less political and more celebratory in nature. In a country where LGBT people have most of the major equal rights they want, Pride in Spain is more jubilation about gay life than a political demonstration. I hope for that day in America.
Second, I dream for a time in the U.S. when straights outnumber gays at Pride events. I’ve been to many Pride festivals across our great country. They can be great fun and very uplifting. Certainly, straight friends and allies come out to support us at Pride events, but not quite like in Madrid. In Madrid, I saw an entire city emerge for several days and nights to rejoice. The straight crowds dwarfed anything I’ve seen at any Pride event in America. At night, they filled plazas for a city block party. During the main Pride parade, they engulfed the 1.2-mile route down the Gran Via from Puerta de Alcala to Plaza de España in the city center; some 1.5 million people — many of them heterosexual — lined the streets to swarm around marchers and the occasional double-decker bus filled with dancing gays. Sure, there are probably many Spanish people who just want any good excuse to party or drink on the streets. Many straight partyers wanted to be doused with water by gay onlookers in balconies overlooking the parade route. Fun craziness, but then I realized there’s nothing wrong with that. Straight people came out for a city’s celebration of LGBT Pride — turning out en masse to equal, if not outnumber, the gay folks. That’s quite remarkable, and it should be our vision for the U.S.