Somewhere Over the Rainbow 

Annual gay pride parade boasts plenty of color and a few gay-friendly politicians.

With so many rainbow flags, rainbow banners, and drag queens in rainbow-striped dresses lined up in the north parking lot of First Congregational Church last Saturday, it's hard not to dream of the proverbial pot of gold.

I'm at Mid-South Pride's annual gay pride parade, waiting to walk with the delegation from the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), a statewide lobbying group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights. Also in the delegation are state senator Beverly Marrero (sporting a trademark straw sun hat with a large red flower) and state representative Jeanne Richardson, TEP leaders Jonathan Cole and Tommie Simmons, and several volunteers from the organization.

We're each holding two small Tennessee state flags, which we're told to wave as we walk. A woman in the back of our delegation carries a bubble machine, which she points intermittently at each of us since the cool bubbles provide some relief from the unbearable afternoon heat.

Though our group will walk along the parade route, there are several large floats parked nearby. A group of shirtless leather enthusiasts from Tsarus, the city's gay leather social club, are directly behind us, and a couple of supermodel-tall drag queens are to our left, squeezing under a tiny umbrella in an attempt to shade themselves from the sun.

Seated in the back of a red convertible a few car lengths ahead of us is parade grand marshal Peterson Toscano, a prominent gay activist who once attended Memphis' "straight camp" program Love In Action.

At 4 p.m, the parade steps off, heading north out of First Congo's parking lot.

click to enlarge p._9_on_the_scene.jpg

Spectators are gathered on either side of Cooper, and though there are several hundred feet between each group, it doesn't stop the audience from getting into the spirit.

"Go Beverly Marrero!" shouts one man, as our delegation walks past. Marrero smiles and waves with one hand while proudly hoisting her Tennessee flag with the other. Another person shouts support for Richardson. Both politicians have a record of supporting gay rights in the state legislature.

At the end of the route near Peabody Park, several hundred people are gathered under the railroad trestle. They whistle and scream "Go TEP!" as our group passes. Even though they weren't really yelling for me, it still makes me smile.

Once in the park, the annual gay pride festival is already under way, and a few of us make a beeline for the beer tent.

As the last float, filled with men dancing in foam, pulls to the end of the route, the park is packed. As I sip my beer and observe the crowd, I realize that though there was no monetary treasure at the end of today's rainbow, the enthusiastic support of the gay community in Memphis is worth more than anything money can buy.

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