INDIANAPOLIS – By 9am on June 11th, thousands of people had already begun to brave the rising heat as they lined the streets of Pennsylvania St, Vermont St and Massachusetts Ave for Circle City IN Pride’s 2016 Pride Parade.
Named the Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade after Bag Lady Queen 2002 and parade founder Cadillac Barbie, the Indy Pride Parade and Indy Pride have both grown dramatically since their inception. According to the Circle City IN Pride website (http://www.indypride.org), the very first pride event in Indianapolis was a dinner in 1981 at the long gone Essex House Hotel which once stood at the corner of Vermont and Pennsylvania Street. Several decades later, under the leadership of Gary Brackett (aka Cadillac Barbie) the first pride parade was introduced. The parade took place on the second Saturday of June 2005 and “lasted 15 minutes” and “featured a float, an antique truck, a few drag queens, some antique cars, and several walking groups.” And now, 11 years later, 2016 featured a dozen floats and over 80 vehicles, which along with the walking contingents represented 180 total registered groups gathered to celebrate, advertise, demonstrate and contribute to a pride event that had an estimated attendance last year of over 100,000 people.
This year I marched with Central Indiana Queers, a group that I helped co-found along with three other members of the Indianapolis queer community last August. Our mission statement reads that we’re “a group formed to facilitate education and build community among sex-positive queer-identified folks 18 and over. Allies Welcome!” Since the initial meeting on August 23, 2015, CIQ has coordinated monthly meetings centered around guided discussions and potlucks as well as educational presentations from organizations including the Damien Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. CIQ’s online groups have revealed a community in Indiana eager to share articles and discuss ideas which include issues of intersectionality, gender identity, and lgbtq+ rights.
The co-founders of CIQ, Sara, Marta, Mysty and myself, had been planning the group’s presence in the 2016 Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade since early January. Thanks to the generosity of some sugar loving members of the kink, leather and queer communities, a bake sale held simultaneously at the 501 Eagle in Indianapolis and The Back Door in Bloomington in March netted the funds necessary to create a banner featuring the CIQ logo and name of the organization. Banner in hand, an event was created inviting people to, as written in the event description, “represent with fellow radqueers who know that beyond our 95K person strong Pridefest lies an ongoing struggle for the liberation of everyone harmed by heteronormativity, cisnormativity, sex-negativity, mono-normativity, misogyny, ableism, racism and other forms of oppression.”
Our modest contingent was made up of just over a dozen people, over half of which were sporting colorful, handcrafted tutus. Among those present were people whose identities include (but are not limited to) poly, femme, pup, lesbian, masculine of center, leather, ally, gay, pagan, Christian, boy, kinkster, sister and, of course, queer. The first parade contingent stepped off at 10 a.m. and almost two hours later, our little microcosm of the Indiana queer community began their march to the American Legion Mall. Along the way we were surrounded by applause and screams, occasionally from familiar faces, mostly from, supportive strangers.
As we passed the intersection of Vermont and Pennsylvania street, the former site of the Essex House Hotel, 3 gated protesters were dwarfed by clusters of celebrating people cheering us on. Today I wonder if the protesters were aware of the history surrounding their location. I expect it was a coincidence that they chose that spot – a site that evokes a time when fear necessitated many closeted members of the community to enter that small dinner in 1981 wearing masks. Every year since then has seen an increase in visibility as Indy Pride events moved into increasingly public spaces. “I march for those who can’t” says co-founder of CIQ, Mysty, “I won’t be silent and I won’t go back in a closet. I will continue to live as my Gods created me: loudly, with ferocious Pride.”
Hillman, Meghan. Out of the Closet: the LGBT Community in Indianapolis. Discover Indiana. Retrieved from http://indyhist.iupui.edu/
Wang, Stephanie. (2015, June 16) Amid 50,000 at Pride parade, a show of corporate support. The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved from http://www.indystar.com/story/