Matti Bunzl's Blog

Gay Pride at CHF

It’s that fabulous time of the year again when queers and their friends celebrate Gay Pride!

Chicago Gay Pride Parade
Chicago Gay Pride

The festivities commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969, when a bunch of courageous drag queens, immensely saddened by Judy Garland’s untimely death, decided to no longer take the harassment that was part and parcel of queer life. Rounded up in a raid at the Stonewall Inn, they famously resisted, inaugurating the modern lesbian/gay liberation movement.

Stonewall Riots
Stonewall Riots

The event has been recalled ever since, first in the US and gradually around the world. And as we have been moving closer and closer to real equality, gay pride celebrations have grown. Our own, here in Chicago, is one of the great events of the summer season, featuring hundreds of amazing floats parading down “Boy’s Town” to the cheers of thousands and thousands of spectators.

Chicago Gay Pride 1994
Gay Pride 1994

Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade was actually the first I ever attended. The year was 1994 – and it was a special occasion: the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. It was the end of my first year as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and I was there with my partner Billy (we had met during the first week of classes). But we were not alone. We were part of a small group of UofC faculty and students who would march in the parade. At the time, it was still not considered self-evident to be “out” at the traditionally conservative institution; but things were changing quickly, with folks like historian George Chauncey blazing a trail for the rest of us. George had just published Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, one of the definitive books in the then-emerging field of queer studies and a tremendous inspiration for many, including myself.

Gay New York
Gay New York

What I remember about that day in 1994 is the sweltering heat and the hours we waited for the caravan to get going – we were all the way in the back, and I swear that the Dykes on Bikes were done with their trek before we even started moving. But no matter. The atmosphere was incredible, with cheers coming from all around us. It got even better once we were on our way, with people throwing us candy and kisses. We didn’t even mind that we had to run most of the time to keep up with the procession – far from being natural partiers, it had not occurred to any of the UofC folks that it would be far more convenient to experience the parade on a float…


The Dykes on Bikes Getting Ready to Lead the Parade

But speaking of convenience. At the CHF, we have a long history of celebrating Gay Pride, and our archives are full of amazing LGBT programs. Just check them out! You will find talks by some of America’s most fabulous queer writers, including Tony Kushner, Jennifer Boylan, Wayne Koestenbaum, E. Patrick Johnson, and Mark Doty & Achy Obejas. Over the years, we have also featured scholarly presentations on lesbian/gay issues by such folks as Martha Nussbaum, Dwight McBride, and Paula Treichler.


Tony Kushner

Achy Obejas
Achy Obejas


Wayne Koestenbaum


Paula Treichler

Dwight McBride
Dwight McBride

And let’s not forget America’s favorite sex advice columnist – Chicago’s native son Dan Savage. At the 2010 CHF, he took the stage with his brother Bill for 90 minutes of insight and hilarity. It was amazing – kind of like a Gay Pride Parade…


Matti Bunzl, Dan Savage, and Billy Vaughn at the 2010 CHF

Please note: each week we reveal new fall Festival presenters and programs in our weekly update email. To stay in the know, email update@chicagohumanities.org to be added to our mailing list or check back every week for new blog posts.

Tags: gay pride, Pride Fest, LGBT, social justice, Stonewall Rebellion, queer studies

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