Commentating on the Victorian Pride March for JOY 94.9 on Sunday gave me a good vantage point — from the back of a stationary ute — which you don’t get when you’re actually marching. And I have to say it was a rather strange Pride March this year. Strange, but also encouraging.
There were the sights you expect to see, but I was surprised and delighted by the very large number of young people taking part.
Melbourne High School boys, in their uniforms, marching with their principal, indicate how far we’ve come.
Schools have marched before, but to see the number one selective state school in Victoria marching, the one which gave us Simon Crean, Alan Stockdale, Graham Kennedy, Lindsay Fox, Bruce Ruxton and numerous others, took my breath away.
It was also the first time anyone could remember a federal Liberal senator joining the marchers, with Judith Troeth walking with the local Liberal contingent.
There was also a marked increase in the number of people from regional Victoria, including Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton, Daylesford, Macedon, and two lesbians from Geelong. Many of these were from youth groups, too.
Sport fielded rowers, runners, swimmers and volleyballers, joined for the first time by gay rugby and soccer teams. Again, lots of youngsters. I confidently predict a gay AFL team taking to the field sooner rather than later.
Cute award of the day had to go to the Tykes on Trikes. Young as they were, there was no doubting their enthusiasm, although their steering and braking ability need work.
How many times have we heard people — gay and straight — moan, “What’s the point of Pride?” “Surely we don’t need Pride any more?” Sunday gave an answer.
Because what I witnessed on Sunday was the passing on of our cultural DNA. A new generation picking up the reins. For the first time I felt confident that the struggle for equality will go on, and that we will win it.
That was the encouraging part. The strangeness came from the relative silence of the spectators. Normally you can track the progress of certain favoured groups — like PFLAG, or the police — by the cheers rippling down the street, breaking through the base level of applause.
And there were some cheers now and then. But for the most part the crowd just stood and watched. Some marchers remarked how eerie it felt. No coincidence, I suspect, that this was also one of the fastest marches on record.
Maybe it was because Sunday was also Victorian bushfire remembrance day. Or maybe it was just the heat. But to me it felt as if the covert hostility of the mainstream was just a little nearer the surface, as they took note of how much closer to them we have moved.