Reaching new heights of Pride

June 11, 2014

Op-ed By Larry Block, West Hollywood, California

The 2014 LA Pride Festival was a great success.  Let’s give credit where credit is due to the new leadership at CSW, the city council subcommittee of John D’Amico and John Duran and the public for its input.

Larry Block is a merchant and activist who is running for election to the West Hollywood City Council in 2015.

Larry Block is a merchant and activist who is running for election to the West Hollywood City Council in 2015.

As a local business owner I would also like to say thanks to Steve Ganzell and the new leadership at CSW.

As our downtown district prepared to host hundreds of thousands of people the CSW crew was front and center to make sure our needs were met.  Suggestions made during public hearings were heard loud and clear.  Deeds took over words which had previously fell on deaf ears.

Thank You Steve for your personal outreach and sense of team play.

In the past I would bring to light the delay in getting a paramedic to my location when somebody went down for the count… It happens regularly in these parts.  When the first person went down this year in front of my store and paramedics were needed, the firefighters were quick to the scene.   I could just tell that we were prepared and a city working together to protect and defend and execute a celebration worthy of the greatest city in America.

Pride Sunday came and I was very excited to be part City of West Hollywood float that represented our city council and commission members.  I was the very first to arrive at our float, #27, just east of Crescent Heights along Santa Monica Blvd.

Larry Block rode a float in this 1987 parade. Photo courtesy Larry Block.

Larry Block ‘s Oscar Wilde float in this 1987 parade. Photo courtesy Larry Block.

It was a watershed moment as I thought back to my first Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood in 1986.

I had just opened a store along Santa Monica Blvd called Oscar’s Wilde. (where Cooley’s is soon to be) and my family did not know I was gay.  I was 26 years old, in my first relationship, and this was my first gay pride.  My younger sister came out to help in the store and watch the parade.

As the PFLAG float came down the street ahead of us with signs…. my son is gay and I’m proud of him, my brother is gay… My sister put two plus two together and realized that I was gay too.  She left the parade in a taxi without saying goodbye, crying home to my family. Larry is gay… Larry is gay… and 2 days later my uncle called that my mother was going to commit suicide; please fly back to NY… only to be begged to see reparation therapy specialist.

As I told this story to my fellow commissioners, tears flowed down my eyes at how far I have come.

Larry Block donned a campaign shirt and took up the march beside the City Council float during the parade.

Larry Block donned a campaign shirt and took up the march beside the City Council float during the parade.

Today would be a special day. My job was to hand out flags representing our new City of West Hollywood rainbow flag that I helped to create.  My heart was filled with Pride.  For my city, and in the name of all our personal battles, and the friends I’ve lost who could not be here to celebrate with all of us.

New signs were raised, “Stop the Sultan” “Down with Putin” our Pride has gone global.  Here at home gay couples lined the streets, strollers and kids, gay families, and it was clear we are a world away from 1989 when “Heather had two mommy’s” was published.

As we gathered ready to begin the journey down Santa Monica we all stood united in Pride. People danced, some rehearsed, batons flew in the sky, dancers practiced their twirls, and we all stood proud of our city and what our city represents to the LGBT community.

The City Council, commissioner and board members, marched together, as One City One Pride. We marched alongside each other in honor of loved ones, partners holding hands, mommies and daddies with strollers, lovers with wedding rings, and all of us celebrating the right to get legally married.  This was the post Prop 8 era. All of us, standing tall, wearing our hearts on our sleeves, celebrating how far we have come…

Our city welcomed a new Mayor at the head of the float. John D’Amico, one of the only HIV+ mayors in the nation…  A good-looking, wonderful voice of the people. Alongside the float was a Mayor Jerry Pierce from Mid Valley Texas with his son.

Something great happened over this Pride weekend that went largely un-noticed.

John D'Amico called for increased attention and activity during Pride week.

John D’Amico called for increased attention and activity during Pride week.

That event was Mayor D’Amico’s invitation to other LGBT Mayors across the country to join him for a forum in West hollywood during Pride Week. The joint conference at the council chambers was the first of its kind in West Hollywood, and we believe, anywhere.

You see, it’s one thing to have a lot of gays in our community, but it’s another to put a rainbow flag on our city hall and host the first LGBT Mayors summit.

We are not only in the midst of creating this epic dream of the gay Camelot, we spread the good news. It’s happening right in front of our eyes!

I just want to close with heartfelt thanks to all of you for your love and support for our city.  Our community is filled with Volunteers of people helping people.  While the festival is over this is still Pride Month and there are many events for all to enjoy. Participate, get involved, learn and see what our city has to offer for June Pride month.

Because in my heart and hopefully in your heart the times have never been better for our gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters.

Awareness is at an all time high, Gay Marriage is here to stay, and Pep and Prep offer a new frontier to rid our society of AIDS. Yes it has happened, in our lifetimes. 

There can be no questions that open, gay friendly societies are less divided.  There is still much work to do.  But for us locals; Our Pride is not a Season, Our Pride is all year round.  Happy June Pride Month.