Used to be, bars were the only places where gay men and lesbians could meet safely, at night, behind clandestine doors, where no one (they hoped) could see them going in. So in 1970, when the first Pride parades marched triumphantly through the streets of NYC and Chicago on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the fact that they were taking place in daylight was part of the point: The marchers were literally and figuratively out.
Times have changed, of course. St. Pete's newest gay bar, Enigma, is as open to Central Avenue as, say, Tryst is to Beach Drive. And this year, for the first time, the St. Pete Pride parade is taking place at night, Saturday June 28, with the street festival being held on Sunday during daylight hours.
But that's not the only area in which changes for the LGBT community are like the difference between night and day.
Used to be, getting a mayor of St. Petersburg to sign a proclamation about Pride, let alone march in the parade, was an impossibility. But this year Mayor Rick Kriseman not only signed one, he held a big event to announce it, complete with huge rainbow flag as backdrop (a flag that's being raised over City Hall this week in honor of St. Pete Pride Month).
In this issue, we talk with a man who's experienced firsthand how attitudes are changing: Robert Danielson, St. Pete's marketing director and its newly appointed LGBT liaison. We also look at the expanding landscape of LGBT social life outside the bars, meeting the needs of new generations who couldn't imagine not being out and involved in the community.
This issue also includes a complete guide to Pride in its new multi-day incarnation, from parties to concerts to that big nighttime march down Central Ave. And because the party does continue all year along, our regular Food & Drink section kicks off with the 2014 edition of our Za-Gay Guide, our annual listing of bars and bo'tes friendly to the LGBT tribe. Elsewhere in the book, you'll find a profile of theatrical mensch Garry Breul and a manifesto from columnist Scott Harrell on why straight people (you know who you are) should go to Pride, too.
Watch for CL's fire truck in the parade; we'll be tossing out glowsticks and other nocturnally appropriate goodies. But don?t get confused; for the first time ever, the mayor of St. Pete has invited the city's fire department to take part in the parade, and they will be there, truck and all.
Will that mean twice as many sirens to drown out the lone protester? We can only hope.