Last Sunday’s Buffalo Pride Parade was not just a celebration for the area’s gay community but for everyone. It was a chance for the entire community — gay, straight, questioning — to celebrate being part of an increasingly accepting and understanding society.
It is encouraging to see that gay rights have become mainstream. While there will always be prejudice, it is heartening that major local companies want to participate. In part, it represents the natural consequence of coming out of the closet.
When gay people felt the need to hide who they were, it was easy for some people to demonize them, but as society matured, it became apparent that those being attacked, and forced to live diminished lives, were their relatives, friends, associates and coworkers. This is not to say that prejudice and discrimination has been eliminated — against any group — but it was indeed heartening to see so many people come out in celebration.
Mothers, fathers and small children lined the streets down Elmwood Avenue from Forest Avenue to Allen Street. Cheerleaders on the sidelines sometimes jumped into the action when they could, even if only to receive a heartfelt hug from participants.
Even more telling is the increasing number of companies joining in, not only representing their brands on banners but with employees walking the parade route and representing their own diversity.
Rich Products Corp., was one such company. The business is a mainstay of this community and, as a board member recognized last year, should march in the parade. So, 40 employees did just that, appearing with the company’s familiar red logo. As senior programmer analyst Mitalee Dixit, a leader of the company’s new internal LGBTQ Affinity Group, told The News: “We’re showing that diversity and inclusion means a lot to us.”
It’s a message that is important to spread and few can do it with more authority than the area’s established, respected businesses.
And they did. Many local businesses came out to support Buffalo’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, and many of them had been longtime supporters. Among them is M&T Bank, which joined Evergreen Health as a main sponsor of the parade for the seventh straight year. The bank, which has been part of the event for more than 20 years, contributed hundreds of workers to the parade ranks.
Hunt Real Estate agent Brian Szkatulski helped his employer become the first real estate company to be part of the parade. Linde, formerly Praxair, in sharing images of past participation, received surprising but welcome response from coworkers around the world who were impressed by the company’s active acceptance.
Other businesses represented in the parade included longtime participant HSBC and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The list of participants is long and growing. That’s mainstream.
It’s a huge and hopeful change from just 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe it’s an indication that we are, as a community, becoming more accepting of each and every one. Perhaps it brings us closer to the day when a parade merely celebrates, rather than advocates, the simple right to live a joyful life.