When you think of the “Orgullo Gay” parade in Madrid, immediately images of police-officer sunglasses-wearing muscled young men dancing to “It’s Rainin’ Men” from atop a double-decker bus come to mind, right? That’s what I expected, too, after years and years of photos and video from television, magazines & newspapers, and websites of the annual event.
So last night at 8:45pm I wormed my way through the dense crowd onto the very same Gran Vía boulevard at the Plaza de Callao to witness the 2011 Gay Pride Parade in Madrid for myself. There, I thought, I’d have the best vantage point looking up and down the Gran Vía at the curve of the newly pedestrian-ized Plaza de Callao.
Time passed. I’m waiting and looking over the heads of what must have been 2 million others. After about 10 minutes I thought I could see, in the very distance, a small group of banner-carrying parade marchers. 20 minutes later the small band of 25 persons, a few of whom were carrying “the rainbow flag”, or Spain’s (former) Republican flag, or the flag of one of Spain’s political parties, or banners displaying various social statements. Finally they reached my area, passed me, and I turned back to look up the Gran Vía for the next group. Nothing. No marchers in sight.
It was now that it began dawning on me, “If this parade started at 6pm and at 9:15pm – after having been here for 25 minutes and my first-witnessed group of marchers have just passed, HOW MANY (or few) have passed since 6pm – and HOW MANY more will pass in the next 2 hours?” The answers was daunting. Had all these millions of spectators been here since 6pm? For 3 hours? How many marchers have they seen? Had any of those double-decker buses passed by with dancers atop them with blaring music? How long do I have to stand her to see one of those???
I finally came to the realization that the actual parade of the “Gay Pride Experience” was more about general partying than it was about raising social awareness, tolerance & appreciation, support & education, or understanding. Sure, when the few marchers passed by everyone took pictures. But once they were gone – and before they arrived – they were consumed with consuming alcohol (which is fine), chatting with friends, rubbing by one another to reach the next body-less gap in the crowd. Trash was everywhere.
No doubt there were some homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexuals in the crowd of onlookers, but I’m convinced about 99.99% of those watching the “parade” (or lack thereof), were heterosexuals, out on the town to have a good time with friends and not necessarily there to support alternative lifestyles. And that’s fine, too! Have fun!
So is it the fault of the organizers why one group of marchers seem to pass every friggin’ hour? Was the parade designed to last as long as possible in order to keep the area’s cash-registers whirring with purchases of beer, wine, water, and snacks? Sure, I was only there for 45 minutes so surely I may have missed the best parts before my arrival or after my departure. I couldn’t imagine standing there for another 2 hours to see 2 or 3 more groups of marchers in order to get some photos for this blog. When you think of a “parade” don’t you envision one group following another in caravan fashion? Sure, beat your drums loudly and walk slowly so that everyone can read your message. Fine! Do that! But keep things moving!
While I was standing on the Gran Vía, sweating and waiting, I tried recalling last year’s Gay Pride parade in Madrid and it occurred to me that it was exactly like this year’s! Last year I think I stuck it out for an hour and a half, maybe seeing two groups march by – but no buses and no vehicles of any kind.
The coolest part of the Gay Pride Parade in Madrid for me was NOT the parade itself (if you haven’t gleaned that yet from this blog posting). No. THE COOLEST PART WAS THE PUBLIC URINALS! And when I say PUBLIC, I MEAN PUBLIC! Three years ago I wrote the blog entry, “Peeing in Public“, but THIS was the first time I’d seen those street-side, public-view urinals in Madrid, Spain! How would YOU feel about that, relieving yourself amidst tens of thousands of people – the same people who can see you WHILE you’re relieving yourself! Sure, they can only see your face, back, arms and legs, and they can’t see the important stuff. But still! Man, if you ever had “challenges” peeing at a urinal in the men’s restroom with another “occupant” at your side, how “challenging” would it be to have tens of thousands of people all around you while you’re peeing in plain view?!
That’s kind of a shame, don’tchathink?, that the coolest part of the “Orgullo Gay” parade in Madrid was seeing the urinals. Sad. Actually, I did take time-out to admire more than a few hundred very attractive women along the course of the evening so the evening wasn’t a total loss.