Perched on the back of a hot convertible with her partner by her side, she was ready for the parade. I took a moment to remind her how far she'd come -- from bible school to business school, from wide-eyed to savvy, from uninformed to advocate and organizer. She smiled and said something I would hear her repeat several times during the evening, "Amazing. Simply amazing."
As the Female Grand Marshall of Houston's Pride Parade, Tammi had a fairly good perspective on the evening. As her "wheel guard" during the walk/ride along Westheimer in Montrose, the area of the city known for its nurturing of life's alternatives to what some would deem the "norm", I had a chance to reflect as well. I marveled at the crowd of surely more than 100,000, at how the parade has grown in just the five years I've been participant rather than observer, and in many ways, how it had matured.
I still remember my first Pride Parade. Sitting on the curb at one of the less populated points at the beginning of the path, somewhat startled at how "typical" the entries were -- businesses, church groups, families, friends -- all supporting the LGBT community. I cried when PFLAG came by. To see older Mothers and Fathers loving their adult children by supporting them publicly moved me. I wanted to hold the friends that surrounded me closer in that moment, and assure them they, too, had a support system near.
My volunteer and political work has offered me the chance to drive the parade route, walk and cheer along it and with this last parade, get through early enough to come back and sit in the VIP section.
With risers constructed several feet above the route, I had a great view of the rainbow colors and could hear the musical entries as they paused for a moment for the announcers' introductions. I had to smile when I thought of what they'd had to say as Tammi came by. They noted her political activities, her advocacy, her family's support. But they didn't point out one of the most amazing things about her entry because they didn't know. She didn't either until we were all gathered at the starting point. That's when she began to take it all in -- two young family members were holding the banner, another woman and I who had worked with her on campaigns stood by the front wheels, and two college students and one-time interns covered the back. The reality hit and she smiled.
"Oh my!" pausing, she looked at me. "You know what I'm about to say, don't you, Karen?"
The others were waiting and checking us both. And it was her partner who prodded us to share.
"Everyone of Tammi's crew is straight," we replied. Had she intended to do it, surrounding herself with allies would have been noteworthy but the fact that she had simply reached out to representatives/relationships from various aspects of her life and come up with six who supported but had no letter designation in the LGBT acronym was somehow even better. At that moment, my Pride Parade truly began.