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COMMENTARY: Hearing “Happy Pride” is like hearing “Happy Birthday”

There were 14 people in our little contingent sitting in our favorite spot along the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade route. Three of us are gay; the other 11 are straight neighbors and friends who were with us showing love and support and total acceptance on every level one could ever hope for.

We arrived early to nab a parking spot and our favorite part of the sidewalk along Sixth Avenue in the shade. We watched folks dressed in festive rainbow attire, couples walking hand in hand, and laughter was in the air everywhere you went.

Almost every person you passed smiled and said “Happy Pride,” and Susan looked at me and said: “I love that everyone says ‘Happy Pride.’ It’s like they’re saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to us.”

I’d never thought of it in those terms, however, for a gay and lesbian your life really does start the day you “come out,” and what is more festive and celebratory than a big gay parade? So “Happy Pride” now seems even more appropriate!

Even before the troops rounded the corner of University Avenue and started down Sixth Avenue, the tears started to flow. I knew they were coming; I could hear the roar of the thousands of people who had lined the parade route.

And then – there they were passing by me these active duty Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard personnel walking proud in their uniforms. But, these weren’t just any active duty military personnel, these were gay and lesbians in their finest uniforms walking down the parade route in front of thousands of people. Proud of their uniform, proud of their country feeling the love and pride of those of us who rose to our feet to clap and yell and whistle for them.

It was a moment frozen in time for me. I never imagined seeing it in my lifetime, and yet – there they were.

It was a moment for those of us who are homosexual to realize that the world really is changing, and for those who are heterosexual to understand how hard the battle has been and how ridiculous the prejudice against us has been.

I ran on to the street and hugged my friends who walk every year with the Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community float. They are loving, sweet, kind, wonderful friends who quietly live their faith striving for peace, love and equality for everyone.

There was a Mormon group walking this year for the first time ever. They carried a banner which read: “Mormons for Marriage Equality, and held signs saying: “This Mormon loves you,” and “Sorry, we’re late.” They were cheered and accepted by everyone along the parade route.

Was there loud booming music and men dancing in their underwear? Of course, what Pride Parade would be complete without that? There was even this foam- throwing truck that covered men and women inside with foam – I have no idea what it represented, but it was fun and festive. If you go to a Pride Parade expecting to not see craziness, then you really shouldn’t go!

The 300-foot rainbow flag at the end of the parade is always my moment to stand alone in the crowd of thousands and cry. It’s my moment to remember the first time I touched that flag and knew that my life had changed. It’s my moment to watch the people walk by me under and around this flag and watch as it comes to life going down Sixth Avenue. It floats up and down as people join in and help bring it to life. Just like my life as people come into it with love and acceptance and help bring me to life.

Happy Pride everyone!

(Editor's note: Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in a small town in Pennsylvania. "I moved to California in the early 1980s, met my partner Susan and knew she was the love of my life," Barb said. "Thing was -- I was married -- so was she. ... We're still together some 30 years later, minus the husbands, and I share the love of her four children -- Stacey and Shannon, who live in San Diego; Brendan, who lives in Grass Valley, Calif., and Todd, who lives in London. Though our children I have nine wonderful grandchildren and four great-grandchildren who fill our lives with such love and joy. I love to write and my camera goes wherever I go.")