Well, I went and drove in my first gay pride parade yesterday. What a hoot!
That’s Graham and June Horner. Graham built Bridget in 1982. A year or two later their son Mark, then in dental school, came out as gay. That turned June into an activist, which in the ’80s in Carroll County, MD was not an easy thing. I think she told me they changed churches twice.
Anyway. I learned all this when I contacted them a few months ago. June was named Grand Marshal of last year’s Baltimore Pride parade. But the car they gave her to ride in–a Zip car sedan with tiny windows covered in Zip Car adverts–wouldn’t do. So she walked. It’s only like 6 blocks, but June’s got bad hips.
So this year I said why not ride in Bridget?
Turns out her mother had done so back in 1988–when the car was green. She carried a home-made sign that read “Grandmas for Gays.” They were a hit.
This time I told June I’d rig up something so she could sit up higher, as is proper. I got a milk crate bungied to the seat back adjusters with a couple chair cushions tied to it. Worked excellent. She saddled up just ahead of the youth and behind someone in a wedding dress (the Mayor officiated a mass wedding the next day to commemorate and celebrate its newly legislated legality).
June’s placard, by the way, is an iconic shot of PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford, who marched in a NYC liberation parade in 1972 with her son, Morty, who had got his ass kicked while at a political gathering distributing flyers advocating gay rights. Cops led him away and did nothing about the guys who were stomping him. Jeanne wrote a letter to the editor of the NY Post to protest, and then just generally made a stink about it.
At that 1972 parade, the kids went wild. Dr. Benjamin Spock was marching behind her and, as June tells it, Jeanne at first thought the crowd response was for the famous physician. But then the young people were pleading with Jeanne to talk to their parents.
This was 1972. Being gay then was both illegal and a mental illness.
So Manford founded PFLAG, and 10-15 years later there was June Horner, a housewife and mother of three in a conservative county with a machinist husband who worked for the Navy, going before the county council and state legislature to ask that the sodomy laws be repealed. “We weren’t successful that first time,” she deadpanned.
This year’s parade weather was perfect and I am proud and relived to say that Bridget’s clutch cable did not break. As it did 25 years ago, the crowd went wild for the car. My wife tossed Mardi Gras beads to the throngs. Lots of people took our picture.
We were not as sexy as the Charm City Roller Girls. Not as campy as the bears . . .
The Dykes on Bikes were louder. And these people had (for some reason) a much better bunny head and banana hammock…
But our group–30-strong–got its props. Seems like about every third or fourth person who walked by greeted June warmly.
I could not be more proud to have played my small role in it.