I marched in Charlotte Pride this past weekend and it was quite the experience! Joe and I marched with out good friends, Jim and Jeanie and with Charlotte PFLAG. I’ve marched in Pride parades before, mostly in San Francisco. This was a very different experience for me.

San Francisco is BIG! The streets are lined 10 deep with people, all behind police barricades. They are loud and joyful and always cheer when PFLAG comes by. I think PFLAG is greatly appreciated in all the parades. Too many LGBTQ people don’t have the support of their own parents and they very much appreciate seeing parents on the street marching for their kids.

Charlotte was no different in that respect. The parade itself was much shorter and smaller. There weren’t as many people and there were few police barricades so we could touch and feel the people who were watching. And touch and feel we did!

Many of us were wearing shirts or carrying signs offering Free Hugs! People faces lit up when they saw our signs and ran out to hug us. I don’t think I’ve ever given so many hugs in my life. It was so life affirming for me. I’m sure those I hugged appreciated it but really, it was the hugs I got that made the difference for me. Yes, I gave a lot of hugs and so I got a lot too! That’s the thing about hugs, you can rarely give one without getting one in return. It inspired me to see all those people so open to love and hugs.

The parade route was shorter but way hotter and more humid. By the end of the route, I was both exhilarated and exhausted. I wouldn’t have changed a thing though. I can’t wait to do it all again next year. And next year, I will go the festival on Saturday so I can give more hugs!

Enjoy these pictures from the parade, courtesy of my wonderful friend and photographer, Jim Anderson.

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