American in Paris arrested for assaulting a man wearing a pink kilt, led away screaming “Hello Kitty is not a clan!”*

Okay, so that’s not a real headline, but it got your attention, right?

My friend Dan Costello, of Washington, DC, wrote that as a comment to my Facebook status Sunday wherein I addressed what I call “the misappropriation of the kilt” in Gay Pride parades. It got the most traffic of anything I’ve posted on Facebook since my posts about Anthony Weiner, so I figured it was a good hook for this post. (Let me know if you’re interested, and I can expound a little.)

I was writing about kilts in Gay Pride parades because, on Saturday, Paris celebrated La Marche des Fiertés. Paris was actually “Gay Paris” (or, “Gay Paree” for those who don’t realize that “Paris” is still spelled “Paris” in French) for the day! This marked the 30th anniversary of the first march of the sort that we would today recognize as a Gay Pride parade, although there had been other demonstrations in Paris as early as 1971. Since 2001, the march has been known as La Marche des Fiertés (“The March of Prides”) : celebrating the pride to be gay, the pride to be lesbian, the pride to be bisexual, the pride to be transsexual, the pride to be queer … the pride to be a member of a sexual minority in the face of discrimination, misunderstanding, even hate.

Photo credit: © 2011 Michel Denis Pouradier

This was my first Pride in Paris, and the first that I was able to spend with my husband Michel since we met in 2009. We got in our Pride attire (nothing too crazy, of course) and headed down to Montparnasse where the parade kicked off. We spent over two hours in the crowd near the starting point of the parade, clicking away with our iPhones, cheering as each contingent passed, dancing when the music was good, and stealing a kiss from each other every now and then. After the last float had floated away, we grabbed a bite to eat, recharged our iPhones, and métroed to Saint-Michel to rejoin the parade en route to Bastille. It was an exhilarating experience, walking along the boulevards of Paris, flanked by a drag queen in a wedding gown one moment, a dancing gym bunny the next, a family with a stroller and a toddler wearing butterfly wings riding on her dad’s shoulders the next. It’s a story better described in images than in words … so here’s a little taste:

The colors and the personalities (photo credits: © 2011 Samuel Michael Bell):

And then there was the music:

(This is pretty loud, so you may want to turn down your speakers.)

But in the midst of the fête, remembering the victims:

past …

… and present.

And a one-minute foghorn, followed by three minutes of silence, followed by a 30-second foghorn to honor the memory all of those who have battled against AIDS and lost.

Corne de Brume

I was proud in Paris on Saturday: proud of those who came before me to make my way in this world easier, proud of those who shared that walk with me during the parade, proud of the victories that the LGBT community continues to win around the world, even in the face of what sometimes seems to be insurmountable adversity … even proud of that French guy with an Italian surname wearing a kilt made with the tartan of someone else’s family because … well, because he’s a member of MY family—my big, bright, colorful, strong and resilient family.

Happy Pride! Keep the faith and fight the good fight!

* In the interest of full disclosure, Hello Kitty apparently does have its own registered tartan. I think some of my ancestors have rolled over in their graves a few times over that one.

Read a related article here.

© 2011, Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

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