The 10th annual Gay Pride Day in Washington yesterday brought together thousands of area gays who were black, white, old, young, male and female. Some men wore women's clothes and some wore leather motorcycle outfits. But most chose to wear shorts and T-shirts appropriate for the 80-degree heat and the high humidity.
It was the first Gay Pride Day for Miki Sinclair, the reigning Miss Gaye America, who tiny-stepped his way through the festive T-shirted crowd yesterday in a tight-fitting, floor-length, silver-sequined gown.
"This is a very important day for each of us," he said. "We get to experience ourselves and to feel at ease and to be together as a family."
Sinclair and thousands of others celebrated the 10th annual Gay Pride Day in Washington with a parade through the Dupont Circle neighborhood and a festival at the Francis Junior High School at 24th and N streets NW. District police estimated the crowd at 4,500 but event president Terry Maki said his group estimated 28,000 people participated based on advance and gate ticket sales and by counting the people who watched the parade.
Missing was the political emphasis of past rallies; yesterday's was more a celebration. It was a day for men to openly hold hands, for women to kiss each other as lovers and for about 100 gay organizations to hand out literature, sell food and sign up new members. It was a picnic day with blankets spread out under a hot June sun, singing and dancing and long lines at the beer and soda concessions. Only 15 minutes of the six hours of stage time were given over to politicians.
D.C. City Council Chairman David Clarke read a proclamation from the council naming June 10 to 16 as Gay and Lesbian Pride Week.
He also said: "It is important for the gay community to respect itself and feel respected . . . . Washington has been a community which has afforded them respect, mutual respect for human rights. This is cause to be proud." Council members Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) also attended.
Ten years ago it was a different type of celebration, with more emphasis on gay rights, said Jim, 40, who works for a trade association.
Jim and most others interviewed did not want their last names used, saying they feared they would lose their jobs.
"In 1975, the atmosphere was different," Jim said. "It was not as accepted to be gay. Now Gay Pride Day is more open, more festive, less political."
P.R., 24, from Gettysburg, Pa., was chatting with her lover about their reluctance to talk about Gay Pride Day to family members and coworkers.
"I told my parents we were going to Washington to see friends," she said. "Everyone at work knows I'm gay but I didn't tell them I was coming to Gay Pride Day. We are supposed to be proud and yet we didn't tell anyone. But we are proud. It is fun getting together and having everyone happy and not yelling at you or ridiculing you."
Participants bought up T-shirts with slogans like "Out In The City" or "Beneath Every Woman's Curves There Lies a Muscle." One of the best sellers was from the gay division of Mensa, the elite organization whose members' IQs are in the top 2 percent nationwide. Against a brillant turquoise background was written in pink, "all this and brains too . . . "
Chuck Goldfarb, 38, president of Black & White Men Together, said: "This has not been an easy year with acquired immune deficiency syndrome hitting our community. We have to be very serious about AIDS. But today is a day for good times. It is a day to take pride in being openly gay, openly black, openly different. This is a day not to hide our differences."