Showing pride in Durham

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 08:05 PM

The N.C. Pride Parade left feathers and Mardi Gras beads in its wake Saturday afternoon, the hurricane of glitter and spandex, big hugs and supportive chants etching a path of tolerance and inclusion into Durham.

The statewide celebration of lesbians, gays, transgenders, bisexuals and others, along with their allies, brought a one-hour parade and weekend-long after-party to the communities surrounding Duke East Campus.

Thousands lined West Main, Buchanan and Markham streets, waving rainbow flags and catching foil packets of condoms and red lollipops as they were flung from parade floats. Smaller pockets of protesters stood on street corners, waving crosses at those passing by in furry go-go boots or those holding hands with their partners.

Dozens of groups lined the road, waiting for the parade to start next to their vintage cars and streamer-strewn floats. Harry Rosenberg held up the banner for SAGE Raleigh, the Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders organization, with his partner, John Hammond.

Rosenberg said at 74, he came out. He’s a widower with children and grandchildren, but this is his true self. He isn’t a shy guy, he said, and ended up meeting Hammond at a LGBT luncheon.

“There are a lot of guys who are like us, who are older, who are looking for companionship,” said Rosenberg, now 77. “The center provides a mechanism for us to come together out of our isolation. It’s very affirming, it makes us proud and visible and unashamed.”

Around him in the parking lot were couples with their pets, children holding up Equality NC signs, and men in drag.

“This affirms us,” Rosenberg added about the parade. “You see a lot of people here, of all colors, young and old, children, and we draw strength from each other.”

Churches participated in the parade on Saturday – Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham led an interdenominational service that morning on the festival field. They drove a red pickup truck during the parade procession, and Jamie Ward, dressed like Cruella De Vil with his black and white parted wig and sleek black skirt, stood in the back in high-heeled boots, waving a flag.

He’s been with Pilgrim for five months, and as a gay man, he said representing a church at a LGBT festival is a point of pride.

“This is the biggest statement you can make,” Ward said. “The church’s motto is ‘All are welcome here.’”

Along the route, Dusty Herbert, 20, from Snow Camp, and her sister and friends watched the floats drift by in black shirts they painted themselves.

Herbert’s read, “Damn right, I support,” on the front. On the back, it continued, “Dusty. Young, wild and gay.”

“They’re supporting, I’m gay,” Herbert said, motioning toward her group of friends. She knew she was gay since the fourth grade. “We are who we are, right?”

Everyone started to cheer a little louder when PFLAG, the nonprofit for parents, families and friends who support the LGBT community, walked by with their banner. “My Son is Gay, and I’m Just Happy!!” read Durham resident Cathy Marshall’s sign.

“We love you!” people hollered at her from the sidelines.

Marshall’s son is 23 years old, and she’s known he was gay since he was little. She said she wants to show the community that parents can understand, that having gay children isn’t “awful or bad,” and that children should never give up on their parents.

“This is just one of the most enjoyable days of the year,” she said.

Groups shimmied in feather boas and others chanted, “Stop the hate! Liberate!” Parade participants walked their dogs with rainbow bandannas tied around their necks and teens passed out “I love reproductive rights” buttons.

“It’s full of love,” said Tamika Robinson, who works on Duke’s East Campus. “There’s no hatred here.” She and her friend since high school, Angelica Thompson, waved at campus groups filing by.

They both identify as bisexuals, and they said they’d rather live by “why nots” than “what ifs.”

“Let me see that energy!” Thompson yelled to the crowds. “Let me see that rainbow!”

“I love every second of my life,” Robinson said. “There’s no regrets.”