"Gay Pride" is a badge of recognition for the set of people who are very out about being homosexual.

The symbol may be found as stickers, patches or pins around San Francisco, and other locations.

The badge is rectangular: a rainbow of bright colored stripes cross the field horizontally.

Also known as rainbow pride, though hiding the word 'gay' in that title is the opposite from being proud about it.

Pride days are a great day for the communities all over the US (strangely, I'm not really sure as to the festitivies - if there are any - in other countries) ... I just went to the Pride festival in Spokane, Washington a couple of days ago. To give a quick rundown, Spokane is a big town with a small town mentality. Basically, almost everyone here is white, straight, Christian, and ... well, they seem pretty limited. I'd never been to a Pride Day in Spokane, so I wasn't expecting much ...

Was I wrong! There were probably 600 queers and queer-friendly people all over the place - everyone from drag queens to lesbian mothers to gay couples to single gay men to straight and supportive people ... both the numbers that showed up and the variety amazed me. They actually gave me a lot of hope for this place. Spokane, being 30 miles from Idaho, is not exactly a bastian of tolerance and difference, but for one day, it seemed that people didn't really care whether you were straight, gay, transgendered or asexual ... as long as you were having fun.

I've never been one to take part in typical gay pride festivities. I've always felt vaguely ridiculous celebrating something that is innate to my nature. Since I happen to believe that there is no gay culture, I find pride get-togethers akin to a bunch of people getting together to express their joy at the existence of cosmic background radiation. It just doesn't mean all that much to me.

However, I do feel pride in certain aspects of the way gay people live their lives. Recently, I heard through the grapevine that an acquaintance and former co-worker of mine had come out of the closet. He's in his mid-30s, a really nice, funny guy, but I had always found his demeanor a little sad. I've known him for about ten years, but never knew him to have anyone for companionship. My gaydar never went off about him, and I never gave his sexual identity much thought. It really wasn't necessary to do, given the nature of our friendship.

However, when I heard this little tidbit of gossip, things clicked in my mind. It all made sense, his status as a loner and/or wallflower. His biting sense of irony. Even his love of 80s music and willingness to express that love by dancing down the aisles of a supermarket when hearing a favorite oldie but goodie piped over the store's loudspeaker system.

Hearing that he had come out ... it all made sense. This friend of mine is gay and it's right for him. It just took him a longish time to admit it to himself, and from there to admit it to others. I felt suffused, flushed almost, with pride for him ... because I know what it must have taken for him to open the door to his own personal closet, to come out to himself and others. I was, am, proud of him, for making a choice that can only increase his chances for personal happiness. I feel just as joyous hearing that he's come out as I myself felt when I came out of the closet oh, so long ago.

THIS, to me, is the true essence of gay pride. I want to run up to my friend and hug him, dance with him, just tell him that I am proud to be his friend, that my respect for him for making the decision to come out is enormous, that I understand what a struggle it must have been, and how long that struggle endured in him. This is something I feel is worth celebrating, but on a personal and individual level, not in a group of hundreds or thousands. This is the type of gay pride that you don't have to be gay to feel. You just need to be compassionate and human.

Gossip moves faster than people, so I can't yet tell him how proud I am of him, since he hasn't gotten around to coming out to me. I'm sure he will, sooner or later. I hope sooner.

The champagne is chilling.

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