Photo Essay

SEXUAL MARDI GRAS

The last Sunday in June marks the occasion for Chicago's annual Pride Parade. This parade, which began as an impromptu protest march in 1970, once raised onlookers' shocked eyebrows and hackles at the sight of its outrageously and outlandishly garbed participants. Now, however, it is not only participated in and viewed by members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and their straight friends and supporters, but also has become a must-see event for local residents and out-of-town visitors. Since crowds of spectators currently number in the hundreds of thousands, politicians like to appear in the parade and corporations sponsor floats. A few religious objectors to homosexual acceptance and rights inevitably appear but are largely ignored. Indeed, the history of this parade reflects an encompassing revolution in social attitudes regarding sexual orientation and lifestyles.

For a photographer, this celebration of tolerance, diversity and individuality is a visual cornucopia. Everyone is out to see and be seen. The mood is open and friendly and the parade is exceptionally inclusive and participatory. A carnival revelry prevails and, in a city all too apt to be somber and constrained, I can only liken the colorful exuberance of Chicago's Pride Parade to a sort of sexual Mardi Gras.

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