Rain doesn’t dampen pride parade

By Vivian Yee
Globe Correspondent / June 12, 2011

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Every time the Boston sky started raining on the city’s annual Gay Pride parade yesterday afternoon, hundreds of rainbow umbrellas bloomed above the heads of the crowd.

The rain and chilly winds weren’t enough to stop the parade from making its loud, colorful way from the South End through downtown to City Hall Plaza, where gray skies hovered.

“Well, you need rain to make rainbows,’’ a young woman said cheerfully to her companion before the pair disappeared into the bead-wearing, dancing crowd heading down Tremont Street.

Rainbows were everywhere yesterday afternoon: on a large flag draped over a City Hall balcony, on feather boas and tie-dye shirts, even in the mohawk of a teenage boy watching the parade pass by on Tremont Street. Rainbow hats, umbrellas, and ponchos appeared as showers threatened again and again.

A 5-foot-long rainbow flag that proclaimed PRIDE in big white letters was all Debbe Carle and Elizabeth Smith had to keep them dry as they waited for the parade on City Hall Plaza. Smith, who has served in the military for 16 years, said she was there to celebrate the long-awaited repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy.

As for Carle: “She’s trying to find a girlfriend,’’ said Smith, 34, pointing to her friend and laughing.

Carle, who had come from Portsmouth, N.H., wore a backpack fastened with rainbow straps and clutched the flag’s pole tightly. “Absolutely,’’ she said, smiling. “Whatever opportunity presents itself.’’

The parade attracted people from across New England. Like Carle, Paul Goodwin, 23, and Calvin James, 26, had woken up early to come from New Hampshire — and they, too, were gay, single, and looking. And damp.

Goodwin, in a rain-drenched leather jacket, had called in sick to work to see his first big pride parade: “In New Hampshire, it’s like a gay desert! But here,’’ he said, gesturing to the crowd that had formed under a concrete overhang to escape the rain, “it’s much more diverse.’’ As he spoke, a drop of water rolled from his soaked hair down his cheek.

Jennifer Doe, 36, and her wife, Jennifer Rosenlund, 35, were planning to escape to a warm, dry bar after the parade, “in a classic Stonewallian way,’’ she said. Doe said she has been coming to Boston Gay Pride for seven years.

“It’s so much fun with no rain,’’ she said. “But even raining, everyone’s happy to be here and safe.’’

The wet skies failed to deter the marchers in the parade, which included community organizations, schools, and businesses as well as politicians. At least four of the six Democratic candidates vying to challenge Senator Scott Brown in 2012 either marched or sent delegations to the parade.

But none drew as many cheers as Governor Deval Patrick, whose daughter Katherine is openly gay and who marched wearing a raincoat, but carrying no umbrella.

Politicking took a backseat to the celebratory atmosphere, however, as scantily clad marchers danced to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way’’ and tossed colorful beads to cheering, dancing onlookers.

And for many, the day was as poignant as it was festive.

“I’m trying to teach them as early as possible that it’s OK to have a woman love a woman,’’ said Linda Santana, 46, of Hudson, who with her partner of 14 years, Nancy Jones, 49, is raising a daughter and a son.

As Samantha, 8, toddled around 3-year-old Shyne’s stroller, blinking through green butterfly face paint, Santana explained she also has a 22-year-old daughter from her former marriage, before she came out.

Although her older daughter accepts her half-siblings, to whom Santana gave birth after being artificially inseminated, Santana has never persuaded her to attend a Pride event.

“She disagrees,’’ Santana said. “With them, I’m starting to educate them from the beginning.’’

Sean Doherty, Matt Connor, and Meghan Keogh were there to see their former high school’s Gay Straight Alliance club march in the parade. None of them had been out when they attended Medford High School, much less part of the alliance, as they acknowledged with a laugh.

“Kind of wish we had been,’’ said Connor, 20, now a student at Tufts University. There to “celebrate identity,’’ Connor was showing his pride with knee-high rainbow socks.

A few yards away, Efrain Lozada, 44, took his partner Domingo Vasquez’s hand and squeezed it. Though it was chilly, Lozada was grinning in short sleeves. “It’s an amazing day for us,’’ Lozada said. “It’s a day when we can walk around holding hands, and so what?’’