Pride in Albany

By Leigh Cummings

soapbox badgeIt's that time of year again when Albanians take to the streets to celebrate Capital Pride.

In general, I'm not especially fond of our various fests, when the Lark Street and Washington Park areas are overrun with sometimes disrespectful partiers. They usually leave behind a sad swath of destruction that is at best annoying, and at worst shameful. Many Lark area residents (me included) either retreat to their homes or take the opportunity to spend a weekend out of town. Capital Pride, however, gets me excited. It's flamboyant and friendly, community-oriented and just a little bit risque.

This, friends, is a fest I can get behind.

At the heart of Capital Pride is the need for a group of people to say, "This is who we are." But over the years, as the LGBT community becomes more accepted and present, that message has evolved. These days the focus is on connecting with old friends and celebrating Albany's impressive diversity; it has become less about visibility and more about the traditions that make our city exciting and beautiful. It may not be as well-attended or extensively-floated as the St. Patrick's Day parade, but 50 years from now, Pride might be considered equally as venerable. I certainly hope so.

The distance that we have traveled as a society in the fields of acceptance and knowledge of the gay community only serves to highlight how much farther we have to go. Huge hurtles lie ahead for same-sex marriage advocates (both gay and straight, of which there are scores) in New York State. Recently we have seen just how divisive this issue can be, but the tide is turning and I believe that we will have marriage equality sooner rather than later. Governer Cuomo seems committed to championing the cause, more so than any governor has in the past. Local business owners are purchasing billboards that plea, in electronic letters, for civility. Public sentiment is shifting and the proof is in the polls.

Even if you are not a member of the LGBT community, if you live in Albany, you are a member of a greater community that includes them. LGBT folks are your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. They teach your kids, serve your cocktails and write the blogs you sneak to during your lunch break. We should all care about their rights as much as we care for our own, and we should care deeply.

In the prescient words of poet John Donne:

"No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."

Substitute the phrase, "any man's death," with, "any man's denial of rights," and you have what I feel is the fundamental argument in favor of gay rights and same sex marriage. If anyone's rights are denied, mine could be next. Yours could be next.

If you value your own marriage, think of how disappointing it would be to have that taken away just because others do not recognize its value. What a frightening thought.

So come out for Capital Pride and celebrate your community, no matter what your sexuality. Raise a drink and salute the strides that have already been made. Take a moment to speak with your friends and neighbors about what still needs to be done.

Above all, keep your head up and be proud.

Leigh Cummings blogs about her misadventures on public transportation (among other things). You can also find her on The Twitters: @leighcummings.

Last time Leigh was on the Soapbox: The Fantasy Lark Street.

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