Many people have commented on the Augusta Chronicle website to the effect that we parade that which should be kept private, but that is not what Pride events are about. Rather, they commemorate the events that transpired the last weekend in June 1969, when street kids -- many of whom were gay -- and transgender individuals at the Stonewall Inn in New York City refused to accept another police raid -- to be shaken down for money to keep their names out of the papers; to be harassed; or to be treated as though they were not worthy of our Founding Fathers' noble goal.
The gay street kids had nothing else to lose. Their families, including one young man whose mother held his face to a hot stovetop so that he would no longer be attractive to other men, had already rejected them. On that night they said "yes" to full inclusion and the need for respect. The Stonewall Riots, as they came to be known, went on for several days and nights. It is the courage of these individuals to no longer be invisible that has been commemorated for the past 42 years.
A father wrote Augusta Pride after the festivities of that weekend:
"Thank you! I am a parent to a 16-year-old openly gay son, and the joy I (saw) on his face today was priceless. My son was able to see happy and healthy gay families walking hand in hand with pride, without shame and without the need to hide their love for one another. So again thank you. Your hard work has made a difference for all families, but especially for our gay youth."
There is no greater community expression than that which is captured in this statement. The city of Augusta estimate places the number of participants at the 2011 Augusta Pride Parade and Festival at 6,500 to 7,000 people. In their words, "This is definitely high on the list of Augusta's great festivals."
While this has an economic impact for the city, and this is a contribution we are proud to make, it is not the economic impact that motivates the Augusta Pride Committee. It is the words of this straight father and his gay son, who for one day felt safe, accepted and a part of this community.
We strive to create a more perfect union for Augusta, where straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals come together as humans for at least one day to celebrate the events of 1969, and hopefully continue to share this unity throughout the coming year.
Christopher J. Bannochie, Ph.D.
(The writer is public relations director of Augusta Pride.)