Perspective

Atlanta had its Pride festival this past weekend, and I was one of eight grand marshals in the annual parade up Peachtree Street and down 10th Street. Two of those “eight” were organizations, so there were actually around two dozen people who could call themselves grand marshals this year. The full list is here.

I’m not sure how I was chosen for this distinction, I know Pride takes nominations from people in the community, and I know at least one friend of mine submitted my name with supporting documentation (news clippings, I’d guess). Maybe she wasn’t the only one who did so.

Of course I know why I was chosen; it’s because of the federal lawsuit I won with the help of Lambda Legal. It happens that today, October 16th, is the fifth anniversary of the day Sewell Brumby fired me for being transsexual. I’d be the first to admit I enjoy tooting my own horn, but in this case the credit rightly goes to Lambda Legal, which has been honored in the past with grand marshalship (marshalhood? marshaldom?). I think it’s important to keep a humble perspective, so I accepted the honor and the attendant adulation as a symbol for the great big win Glenn v. Brumby brought to the LGB and especially T community.

Since I’m an etymology geek, I’ll stop here and mention the origin of the term “grand marshal.” According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, a grand marshal originally was “a ceremonial title for certain religious orders.” Of the modern uses, I suppose the one that applies here is “a parade dignitary,” although I’d love it if one day I could join the “Order of Teutonic Knights.”

In addition to grand marshaling, I sat at the table for Atlanta Outworlders, the LGBT science fiction and fantasy fan group I’ve been a part of since 2007. That’s where I began my day at Pride Sunday morning. I had to be at the parade’s mustering site on West Peachtree by 12:30, and with the help of my Razor scooter, I got there about 20 minutes ahead of time.

There were hundreds of people and vehicles spread out over several blocks. I never would have found my car, but I did find a Pride official with a map. Yes, there were so many marchers, floats, and cars that they had to take positions according to a map.

I was told where I’d find my convertible, and it was a short walk away, facing east on Pine Street. It was a BMW owned by its driver, Jason, who is a member of the Pride committee. He was very kind and friendly. There was a big magnet on each door with my name on it.

The parade began promptly at 1 p.m., but we were pretty far back and didn’t move for some time; in that respect it was like the starting line at the Peachtree Road Race. But soon we began to move; we crawled up the low hill, turned left onto Peachtree, and the odyssey was underway!

…Which is a dramatic way to say we drove up Peachtree to Midtown at five miles an hour. But it was like no other experience I’ve ever had. If it had been in a movie, it would be the scene at the end, after the heroine has achieved all her goals, that sums up the story we’ve all just seen.

At the Pine intersection and for several blocks later, a small number of people lined the streets, cheering and waving at me. The number grew and grew the further north we progressed, and by 10th Street the crowds were four and five deep on the sidewalks and more spectators were hanging out of second-story windows.

Most of the spectators weren’t there to cheer for me, of course, but some were among the best people I’ve known in my life. I know I didn’t see all of them in the crush or hear them call my name, but I did see many. My girlfriend and her parents were there with the love I couldn’t live without. Several Outworlders called out my name; the Outworlders were the first group of friends who only know me as I am now, post-transition, and were there to support me in the desolate days after Sewell Brumby fired me.

My best friend David, the first person I came out to, and his boyfriend were there. I saw Winston Johnson, a courageous gay rights activist I’ve met and become friends with in the last half-decade. HRC’s Atlanta chapter gave me an award named after Winston and his late partner.

I saw Lorraine, the first person I spoke to at Lambda Legal after my firing. Dyana, who has written more news stories about my case than anyone else. Kristen, my esthetician friend who waxed my eyebrows and taught me how to apply makeup, and made me up for the press conference when we kicked off the lawsuit. My friend Tamara ran into the street at 10th and gave me a kiss.

There were homophobic protestors along the parade route, too. I shouted to them all that I love them.

I don’t imagine I will get many more opportunities like this. As time passes and Glenn v. Brumby recedes into history (it’s already being supplanted in the larger narrative by Macy v. Holder, which follows and builds on it), my name will fade from the public consciousness. I can’t think of many better ways I could have taken my bow.