From: (Steven Levine)
Subject: Duluth-Superior Pride
Date: 10 Aug 95 18:28:31 CDT

"So how big is this Twin Ports Pride celebration?" people
would ask me when I told them I was going to Duluth
with the band last weekend.  "All I know," I would answer
truthfully, "is that instead of a March and Rally they are
having a Walk and Picnic."

It's true that Duluth-Superior Pride was very small (75,
maybe 100 people) but the March along a small bit
of the coast of Lake Superior was called a Walk so the
organizers wouldn't have to pay for a parade permit. 
About 18 members of the Minnesota Freedom Band went
up for the festivities, a somewhat small ragtag
group (no snare drum -- wanna' hear bass drum cadences? --
but five trumpets).  We rented a bus, which made the 150-mile
trip very pleasant and easy.  We had a small
group outing.

A Pride boatride on Lake Superior happens in June,
but mostly the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (yes,
transgendered in Duluth) community of Duluth-Superior
comes down to the Twin Cities for Pride.  The "community"
comes down, you ask?  Well, basically, yes.  Many of the
needs that Pride marches fill for individuals are met for
the residents of the Twin Ports (and surrounding towns
on the Iron Range) by the Minneapolis festival and
parade.  Minneapolis is just bursting with outstate
homos et. al. that weekend, this I have long noticed.

Still, there is something empowering about sponsoring
a Pride event in your own city.  And what you have
in Duluth, from what I saw, is a small reflection
of what you have in larger cities.  A very small reflection.
There were two leatherfolk.  There were two dykes
on bikes.  There was one cowboy-drag guy with gay
rodeo stickers on his pickup.  There were five
queer-styled youth.  There were three or four organizations,
political competitors I understand, with five or six members
marching -- oops, walking -- together.  I don't mean to be
diminishing here when I say it was cute.

The rally -- oops, the picnic -- had a stage, and for
my entire time there one woman with a guitar sang.
I didn't catch her name, but she was excellent,
and sang from a variety of genres.  There was a single
transgendered woman manning a booth.  There was one
booth selling women's books and records.  There
was one woman who had four or five rainbow-wood-bead
bracelets to sell.  The local AIDS service organization had
a booth.  The Northland Gay Men's Center had
a booth.  And there was even a small history display,
which included some albums of photos from
Twin Cities Pride parades of the last few years.  There
was, perhaps, one booth for every ten people there.
No food booths, though -- instead, the picnic organizers
set up grills and everybody came to the picnic carrying
their own food.

Even though there were all these little factions I am
describing, my sense was that everybody knew each
other, with a sort of old-friend comfort.  I even asked,
"Do you all know each other here?" "Yup."  "Wow," I said.
"Is it possible to know every out lesbian and gay man in
Duluth?"  "It sure is," was the consensus.

But in a way this was sad, because, from what the folks
were telling me (I asked lots of annoying questions),
Duluth is a place where it is still an enormous risk --
in many ways -- to be out.  We were only two and a half
hours from the Twin Cities, but we were in a very
different lesbian/gay world indeed.

[DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER!  I spent only a couple
of hours in Duluth.  If there are people reading
this who live in Duluth/Superior, or thereabouts,
or who have lived there recently, I hope they will
follow up and clarify or correct any statements
I make here that they disagree with.  I, for one,
would be very interested in hearing their

The folks who were at the picnic were the
proud, out, and political subset of the community.
And they were embarrassingly grateful to us for
coming.  They were amazed that we had, individually,
paid money to rent the bus.  "You mean it cost you
money to come play for us?"  Well, yes.  But that's
part of our mission.  The organizers told us what
a difference it made to walk behind a little band,
that everybody who passed by or saw us from the side
(what, 45 people total?) smiled as we approached
because we were a band!  Well, I know that -- it's
a big reason I play in the band, and a big reason
I think bands are good and important things to
have at small Pride parades --but I sometimes

There is also, I am told, a sort of second-tier
resentment that the residents of Duluth and Superior
feel about the Twin Cities.  The Twin Cities, they
say, get the resources.  The AIDS money.  The
grants.  The community support.  They felt
(and this was our intention) that the band
coming from Minneapolis to Duluth was a big
symbolic gesture.  It really doesn't take many
people to make a large symbolic statement.

So from this I take lots of musings of what it
would be like to live somewhere where the Pride
festival draws 100 people.  What would that feel
like?  Would I be happy?  Would I want to become
an organizer, a mover, a person who tries to
build a sense of community because there's such
a gaping need?  Would I find the struggles too
large, to live in such a city and to find community

Next year maybe I'll stay overnight, and go to
the gay bar, which is in Superior.  The bars
are always in Wisconsin, in the border areas.
I had been told this by civic boosters, but
it's true -- Duluth really is a beautiful city.
It has had some periods of great prosperity
in its past, which have left some wondrous
houses and buildings.  And there are lots and lots
of seagulls, smack dab in the middle of the country.

I got to have that wonderful moment
Saturday afternoon, as I sat in a Park in Duluth,
Minnesota, eating brats and potato salad on a pleasant
summer's day with 100 or so lesbians and gay men,
thinking about the various odd paths my life had 
taken to get me there.

Next year maybe we'll to stop in Hinckley on the way,
to buy cinnamon rolls and pie.  I'm told that's
a tradition.

-Steven Levine, not quite a Minnesotan yet
Return to Gay:Stories:Gay Life
The Bibble Pages, Christian Molick,