Make no mistake about it.
Years ago, we were deviants, perverts and queers.
It took years of planning by Pride Fort Lauderdale and great cooperation with the Broward County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
It took state officials to say OK to Gay; no small achievement when Tallahassee is your capital.
It took months of work by unpaid volunteers who sought to fulfill a dream. That dream came to life as thousands of LGBT people marched proudly along A1A, capturing venues from South Beach and the B Hotel to the Ritz Carlton. That was worth a Tony Award by itself.
It took overtime by city officials, police, and fire officials to ensure safety, security, and easy passage for residents and tourists. As it turned out, they were needed.
Don’t be fooled by the headlines, though.
An isolated altercation between private festival goers led to a violent incident that marred the end of the festival. How foolish and unnecessary. Life is too precious. But when you are building a bridge, you don’t let a pothole stop your construction.
It was a task to move the annual gay pride festival to the Fort Lauderdale beach in the first place. Our pride group, led by Miik Martorell, did that three years ago, and the annual event has grown each year since.
On a strip of concrete and patch of sand where young gay men barely survived as runaways, high school bands from Dillard and Mac Arthur boldly paraded with their marching bands.
On a beach where gay men were once sequestered into a tiny corner, police departments from Wilton Manors to FLPD showed off their rainbow colored cars.
In a city where gay bars once had to hide out behind closed doors in closeted venues, gay men and women unabashedly walked up and down our city’s most distinguished corridor.
South Florida is now one of the most livable gay communities on the planet. We showcased that life and visibility along our beach last week.
A host of politicians also joined in the march. We even have a gay mayor in Fort Lauderdale. There were no discussions of the past, of perversion, of “queers” ruining our community, destroying our society, or stealing children into a world of homosexuality.
We are deviant no longer. We are the divas; the drivers of our community - a part of it, not apart from it. There was so much to celebrate, appreciate, and be grateful for.
More than anything else, we can be proud that we can be proud. We always should have been. We were never “queer.”We were never
“deviant.” We never should have heard of electroshock therapy, and if it is used at all, it should be on those today who are preaching “conversion therapy.”
We are one people, one planet, one with a universal passion to live lives of peace and prosperity; love and longevity.
It may have taken decades, but we have arrived, with a seat at the table; a place in our town. Nobody should have ever denied you in the first place. That is why, this year, we will also celebrate the 50thanniversary of a riot for rights at the Stonewall Bar in New York City.
Rights are something you preserve, protect, and defend. And when you get them, you celebrate them. We just did in Fort Lauderdale, with a historic, first-ever parade.
So if you were anywhere on the beach this past weekend, you did not just go to a party. You recorded history. Congratulations. Hold on to it, and never, ever let it go.