With perennial optimism we always anticipate that monsoon season will end and spring will arrive. This year spring was long and chilly but typical of Indiana weather that fluctuates like the wind. We are now, WHAM, smack dab into summer.

We are always impressed with the determination and bravery of the little spring flowers who weather late season ice and snow to bloom in glorious colors. They are awesome to behold but perhaps paled a bit this year in comparison to the determination of the two Democratic presidential candidates. The change to warmer weather was indeed abrupt and not unlike the end of the campaign between Obama and Clinton.

After months of being drenched in rain and the competitive dialogue, debates, not-so-subtle slandering and then pandering to various groups as well as one another, it’s over, and Clinton has literally disappeared from the scene. WHAM again! Makes us wonder what it was really all about anyway. Seems way too coincidental that for the first time ever we had two candidates from the most disenfranchised groups in our culture taking center stage in a run for the highest office.

Perhaps it was a strategy to address issues such as racism, evangelical radicalism and sexism in a forum less threatening and publicly offensive. Taking pot shots at one another was perhaps seen as more palatable and tactful than waiting for the critics and public to take up those issues.

Whatever the reason, it seemed to work because we heard less talk about the issues and more about the candidates. Oh, maybe that was part of the strategy too -- focusing on the individuals and their personal stand on the state of things in the good ole USA.

***

Maybe its just us, but it seems like the election should already be over and Obama elected. What more is there to talk about? We think Clinton won the popular vote and Obama won the delegates, or maybe it was the other way around. Such details become foggy sometimes since we don’t seem to elect folks based upon real, popular vote but rather all sorts of manipulation with paper ballots, electronic ballots, super delegates, regular delegates, absentee ballots and all those disqualified ballots based upon some fuzzy reasoning.

And then there is the issue of all those who aren’t qualified to vote because they can’t prove personal identity -- hmmmm. But clearly the public has been exposed to the issues and possible solutions, so what more is there to say leading up to the November election? We don’t have to listen to McCain because we have heard his words for the past eight years. No change to be had with him.

Now we’ve said before that we would be happy with either Clinton or Obama and only slightly preferred Clinton because she is a woman. Was (see how quickly she has slipped into the past tense?) she the right woman? We think so because she is experienced and brilliant. But unfortunately she carries some baggage from her husband’s presidency, none of which was her fault!!! Not fair we say.

Obama is equally brilliant, perhaps not so experienced, but that could prove to be an advantage in making promised changes. Well, anyway…

***

In our typical lesbian fashion, we’re making an abrupt climactic change in focus and moving on because it’s June, and that means celebrating LGBT Pride. Some folks seem to think that we shouldn’t spend time prancing about and celebrating ourselves, that somehow it is selfish and boastful to enjoy a couple of months or weeks out of each year to recognize who we are, what we do and how we contribute to our culture.

Well, we disagree with such curmudgeons who are depressing downers and probably feel guilty for being homophobes, even if they are straight or lesbian/gay themselves. We deserve recognition, and no one parties better than an LGBTQI crowd!

Can you even imagine what a music scene, or theater, movies, costuming, decorating, etc., would be without us? Eeeeks! Nearly nonexistent and not so brilliant we dare say. Even those of us who aren’t perhaps artistically inclined still seem to have a sensitivity for the aesthetic in our surroundings and incorporate such aspects into daily life.

***

As we are wont to do each year, we attended IndyPride on June 14 and even marched in the parade. If you aren’t one who is discriminated against on a daily basis, then you can’t appreciate the feelings of comfort and safety that come with being surrounded by 40 or 50,000 others who do understand.

And while there is always the presence of those few protesters who try to make us feel remorse for being who we were born to be, we see police officers, corporate sponsors, local businesses, politicians (Indiana Congressman Andre Carson actually gave a short welcoming speech, and just last week Barack Obama made a broad national statement about accepting and incorporating the LGBT community into our society. Didn’t we say the election should already be over? So there!!), and most importantly families who do love us and share in our angst.

Actually, when we think about it, family seemed to be the key to this year’s event. We’ve attended many Pride celebrations over the past decade or so, and each year the crowd is a bit different. Years ago the tone was one of activism and rebellion and attendees were more defiant about who they were and why. And while there is still that element, we noticed more individuals who just seem to be comfortable with themselves and are simply having a good time.

Today’s youth are more accepting, and lets face it, the majority of the crowd was a whole lot younger then we are. We very much enjoy the newfound confidence of the younger generations, and instead of lamenting that things weren’t so great when we were their age, we rejoice in still being around to experience these positive changes.

***

We mentioned family a few thoughts ago, and maybe that is the real key to the new uplifting spirits. Family support creates an element of legitimacy, and everywhere we looked at this year’s Pride we saw entire families together. Men, women, children, lesbian, gay, straight allies and trans families too. All eating, drinking, dancing, talking and, most importantly, sharing a bit of themselves with one another.

And, given that Pride celebrations and the LGBT movement in general have a reputation of being largely white (and male), we were encouraged, excited even, to see increased numbers of Hispanic and black families. We saw no fighting or hostility (except for those few very morose and unhappy looking folks on the corner protesting our existence -- makes us wonder why anyone would want to convince others to be as unhappy as they are!) even in the crowded beer tent.

***

LGBTQI Pride events have been around since the first march was held in New York City in 1970. The first national Pride march took place in Washington DC in 1979 when more than 100,000 protested singer Anita Bryant’s anti-lesbian/gay crusade.

As one might anticipate, early parades and marches were mainly confined to the larger urban areas like San Francisco and NYC but have now expanded to smaller towns and rural areas around the country. The growth, expansion, popularity and success of Pride parades and celebrations is tantamount to major cultural change and is paradigmatic of the development of the queer movement into a mass movement for equality.

However, while fun and frivolity abound, we must note that the LGBT community still has not achieved full civil rights or equity in most countries, including our own. And while we celebrate we must continue to work toward the vision that someday soon our community will be accepted into society as equal to all others.

While our Prides are entertaining, educational and even amusing, they are once again no substitute for representative democracy.

Helen Harrell and Carol Fischer can be reached at hharrell@indiana.edu and cafische@indiana.edu.