Even when I came out in 2011, and things were so much easier than when Chicago held its first Pride Parade (one year after the Stonewall riots) – even then, we still had civil unions instead of marriage equality, the Defense of Marriage Act seemed to have an impossibly secure foothold in America, and the idea of protective bills for LGBT citizens passing was, if not laughable, quixotic. We're still working on that one.
At the parade in 2013, we celebrated United States v. Windsor, and the ability for people to have their marriage recognized at a federal level. In 2014 we were fighting for it to be recognized everywhere, and in 2015, Justice Anthony Kennedy said "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
After last year, I was done being defiant for Pride. I wouldn't go to the parade anymore. Everyone accepts us now, it's over, we can just live our lives.
Then Orlando happened. We've been beaten, mocked, and murdered in America, but never with that kind of single-minded, calculated, and targeted hatred, and never on that kind of scale.
I hated that I had some reservations about going to Pride this year. I hated that they weren't because I still felt "done," but because I was afraid of what would happen if I attended as a member of my own community. I hated that I heard friends saying they weren't going because of those same fears.
What I loved were the people who were there.
My friends who had been planning to go for months, gay and straight, showed up. We stood silently together at the very beginning as the Orlando memorial passed by. We cheered for politicians, gay bars, animal shelters, and the LGBT organizations whose presence was a reminder of all the work they've done over the years to give us the legal rights we have today. We mostly just smiled and hugged and shouted greetings happily at strangers who passed by.
It was the best Pride yet, and it's because of what is at the center of the LGBT movement, and what was therefore at the center of Pride Sunday: love.
Love is love is love is love, and while the parade must most certainly remain a gesture of defiance, that defiance is saying "We are here, we are visible, and we deserve to be loved and to love others." That is the radical statement of Pride. And we will show up year after year after year until that statement isn't seen as radical anymore.