OC Pride 2013

Posted by Sappho on August 15th, 2013 filed in Daily Life, Quaker Practice

“What’s this?” Joel held up the card, found in the passenger’s seat of my car, with the naked man holding a computer keyboard, strategically placed.

“Oh, that’s from OC Pride,” I said, “You know Pride wouldn’t be complete without sex toys, and lube, and computer tech support provided by naked men.”

I had staffed the Orange County Friends table at OC Pride, my first Pride event in decades. And, it’s true, there were sex toys (right next to the booth of another church), and lube, and a business offering to send naked men to your home to fix your computer, and a guy wandering around in a fairy costume, with a codpiece decorated in rainbow colors, all the usual carnival trappings of what when I was young was called a gay pride event, but these days is called a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual pride event. But what was more striking was how far most of the event felt simply like any other suburban summer fair. Gay pride as something like a summer St. Patrick’s Day, or the Greek festival at the local Orthodox church, something like a fun ethnic event that draws in the community.

There was a table offering pet adoptions, and a table recruiting adoptive and foster care parents for the county. There was a table with a big wedding cake, and there were gourmet food trucks (I went for the one with lots of garlic, and got garlic feta fries), and there was a band that was way too loud if you were near the stage but just right if you were a block away, and Forest Lawn, the huge Southern California cemetery that was the subject of that famous song by John Denver, was handing out cloth bags.

We had a Quaker banner, and peace signs to give out, and pamphlets and bookmarks, and plenty of other faith groups for company. UUs were there, of course, and UCC, and Episcopalians (“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” said their banner), and Methodists, and Jews, and others I’ve forgotten. Lawrence, the clerk of our Ministry and Oversight Committee, had organized us in two hour shifts, and assembled the banners and material. Some of us had Quaker meeting T-shirts, and those who didn’t were advised, if we could, to wear Quaker themed T-shirts, so I wore one with a message about peace.

Some people stopped by our booth briefly, to grab peace signs, but others talked at length. We talked with a young woman, with children, whose father had attended our meeting for a while, and a woman who had recently had to move when her wife died, and a man who was wondering how to make his funeral arrangements when his mother and lover disagreed, and he wanted to give his lover the greater stay. Marry him, and then the say will be his, suggested one of the others on my shift, a retired woman who is clerk of our Quaker meeting’s Finance Committee. I can’t, he said, because of health and insurance considerations, but we’ve done a domestic partnership.

OC Pride was in Santa Ana, not far from our meetinghouse in Irvine, and close to where our old meetinghouse had been in our Santa Ana days. But Pride events draw crowds from a larger geographic area, and so it turned out that many of the people who stopped at our booth actually were closer to other meetings in the Quaker than they were to us. With our cell phones, we were able to look up meetings on the Friends General Conference Quaker Finder to give them addresses, but here’s a lesson for future outreach events: Have a printed sheet of addresses and phone numbers for all the meetings in your Quarter, for you never know which meeting might be closest to the person who stops at your booth.

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