I recall a time in my early coming-out days in the mid-90s when attending a Boise Pride Festival rally and marching in the parade caused more than a little anxiety.
Some of that fear, I know, stemmed from my own insecurities about being openly gay. But it was more than that. I distinctly remember years when protestors heckled us loudly across the street from the State Capitol Building where the rally is held, many carrying signs condemning us. At least one person always had a bullhorn and his hateful remarks often overpowered whoever was trying to speak to the rally crowd.
Then one year I watched a policeman take a bullhorn away from a protestor in mid-yell. It’s never returned. In fact, over the last two decades, the number of protestors at the Boise Pride Festival has significantly dwindled to the point where you’d have to look pretty hard to find them. At the same time, the number of folks participating in the rally and parade has continued to grow each year. Former Idaho Sen. Nicole LeFavour, an openly gay politician now running for U.S. Congress, noted during her rally speech this year that she could never recall seeing so many people there–easily 1,000 strong.
In Idaho, where it’s easy to become despondent about our Legislature’s steadfast discrimination of the LGBTQ community, it’s important to remember and point out positives like the growing Boise Pride Festival attendance, among them many allies. Acceptance and support from allies overall is increasing and includes President Obama, whose recent endorsement of marriage equality will, I believe, be looked back upon as a significant step forward on the road to LGBTQ equality in the United States.
I’m also encouraged during my gradual travels of the world to believe that LGBTQ equality in Idaho and the entire U.S. is only a matter of time. Eleven countries now legally recognize same-sex marriages, among them Norway and Sweden, two places my partner Jim and I recently visited. Rainbow flags abounded at restaurants, shops and hotels, and a tour guide in Stockholm casually mentioned that same-sex marriages are now among the average of 38 marriages performed weekly in their city hall, Stadshuset. Jim and I found ourselves smiling a little brighter after that trip.
There’s no doubt there’s still much work to be done before we can declare the struggle for LGBTQ equality over, but it’s good every now and then to stop and celebrate the strides that we have made. Every day really does get a little bit better.
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.