The Pride Parade is a time-honored Chicago tradition wherein the collective gay community marches through Lakeview, Chicago bedecked in sequined underwear and feathered wings, dancing, cart wheeling, gyrating, hula hooping, and, in some instances, crawling down a two-mile stretch of Chicago asphalt. The culmination of this parade lands squarely at the intersection where I call home. So naturally, this is where the anti-gay protestors had gathered. I felt like Humphrey Bogart: "Of all the Cosmo joints, in all the gay parades, in all the world…"

Chicago Pride Parade male dancers in underwear
They’ll dance fruit loops around you and you’ll want a taste.
A pasty heavyset gentleman stands on an improvised platform, flanked by Chicago’s finest, who are obviously there to quarantine this group from getting viciously danced-to-death with by the crowd of mildly amused gay and lesbian spectators. The man on the figurative and pathetically literal soapbox preaches into an old grey crackling megaphone. The megaphone is not so mega and barely a phone anymore. I wonder how many protests it has seen. This same megaphone, in its earlier years, was probably a sharp and brilliant instrument of communication used in concert with water hoses on the west side of Chicago during the race riots of 1968. I’m sure this megaphone once billowed with authority at countless abortion clinics, scaring the shit out of countless young women. Now it has been deputized for one more round, like a former heavyweight, years old, body and mind taped and greased together for just one more shot at the title.

It seems like a nightmare to me, feeling something so strongly and screaming it into the ether only to find that no one is listening. The man with the megaphone screams desperately at the patrons who walk by. The people passing gather briefly, giving the finger, laughing, screaming things like, "I love you," or, "We can’t hear you!" then moving along. I get the impression that on other days, this little stunt would have been countered by protestors with rainbow flags chatting hymns of equality. But today is not the day for boxing; it’s a day for big gay celebration.

God is Angry sign at a protest rally
What if you’re like, wicked awesome?
I wonder how one goes about preparing a day to scream, "God hates faggots!" at people in the street. The protest was well-organized, complete with signs of matching fonts and color schemes. That means that there was also, at some point, in some trailer park, a decision made as to who would get the cherished megaphone on such a big day. "Alright fellas, now listen up, we’ve taken a vote and we think that Earl should be the one who gets to scream at the Chicago faggots this year. I know, I know, Billy Bob, we all know you’ve been practicin’ your fag screamin’ at that fancy shoe store up by the interstate there, and we’re real proud of ya. Honestly, you have a strong 12-minute set, but the rest feels like…well, hell I don’t know, Billy Bob. It just doesn’t feel organic! You always havea’ strong open but then you digress inta’ your new material which…well I didn’t wanna say this in front of Earl, but that bit you do about God makin’ AIDS to kill homos, well shit, Earl has been doin’ that bit since the early 80’s! Stop cryin’ Billy Bob, you’ll get to travel 200 miles on a weekend to scream at fags soon enough. You just gotta get out there on the road and find your point of view. Listen Billy Bob, I’m sure by this time next year you’ll be a strong closer."

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Pray THEY Would Find the Love of God sign
If you’re not sure who THEY is, you’re probably part of them.
I’m watching Earl struggle. He is frustrated. He is angry. He is inaudible. Just a muffled fog of distorted consonants. The old megaphone gives a loud squeal, then silence. Earl examines the device quickly then discards it on the pavement under his feet. Earl moves to plan B, cupping his hands to his beat red face, screaming something. Still, it is inaudible. In this moment I am sad for Earl. He hates so much and yet no one will listen. It seems like a nightmare to me, feeling something so strongly and screaming it into the ether only to find that no one is listening, or worse yet, they are listening but what you’re screaming is dumb and you don’t even know it. Like carrying on a conversation with spinach in your teeth and everyone you speak with is too polite to tell you. Earl doesn’t know he is stupid. Earl believes he has a fine grasp on sociology (hate fags), science (use pet dinosaurs to protect Jesus from Jews), globalization (build fence around country), and foreign policy (nuke brown people).

I bet Earl goes home raspy, sunburnt, and frustrated, greeted back in the trailer park with, "You did real good, Earl. Shit, you just had some technical issues, is all. Everyone has those sets from time to time. Plus, it was in the middle of the day and you know how much those crowds suck in the middle of the day. That thing about butt pirates, that was classic, Earl. You do that same act in Memphis, I know it’ll kill…. But Earl, Billy Bob is gonna take the lead on the next one. I hope you understand this is business. Nothin’ personal, Earl. You had a great run."

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The old broken megaphone now lies teetering on its side. The prizefighter, once glorious, passes through the ropes for one last pivot and swing, only to be met with no resistance at all, twirling and dancing alone in the ring, a relic born to a different time, swinging viciously in the dark trying to maintain the illusion of relevance.

Earl is dismissed with little concern in places like Chicago, New York, and LA, probably because these cities have large openly gay populations, and people realize there is little room for complaint since the predominantly gay neighborhoods are generally clean, well kept, low on crime, and maintain a high real estate value. Not to mention the way they attract bars and restaurants that are open all hours. Unfortunately, though, the Earls in many places across the country aren’t having any megaphone trouble. So I guess there’s no option other than to keep boxing. But this is not the day for this boxing; this is a day for big gay celebration.

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