Marching with OutServe for Pride

By David Small

I’m not the best gay in the world because I’ve never really understood Pride. I’ve gone out to the parades and shown my support. But I was bored by the politicians marching, uncomfortable by displays of nudity, empathetic for the drag queens wearing 100-pound wigs in 100 degree temps, and self-deprecating comparing my body to the boys on the floats. I am also generally too cheap to buy festival priced alcohol. So mostly Pride for me has been about wandering the streets with friends.

Until this year.

I can’t say I was overwhelmingly excited to march in the D.C. parade when my friend told me the day before he was marching with OutServe and I should too. It sounded hot. Not as in “that guy is hot;” rather, as in “my shirt is drenched in sweat hot.”

Plus I’m a ginger. For me to go to the beach it takes an entire tube of 80spf sunscreen, an umbrella the size of Rhode Island and burka style swim attire to protect me from burning. So marching through the open streets of D.C. midday on what was to be the hottest day of the year yet didn’t thrill me.

But I pulled out my OutServe T-shirt and waited with other members of the OutServe National Capital Region (NCR) chapter in our appointed spot until the flatbed truck of beaded Gays and Lesbians In Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) started to move.

The OutServe color guard unfurled its flags. An American Flag flanked by a Pride flag and guarded by two riflemen.

A few paces behind, we marched out of step in semi formation. Almost everybody had on a gray OutServe NCR shirt with the silhouetted image of 4 service members on the back. A few of us had on the OutServe shirts from last year’s summit in Las Vegas. Some folks sported Army rucksacks on their backs. Some waved smaller American flags. Others waved pride flags.

When we rounded the first corner, the streets were of course packed with people. But something unexpected happened. The crowd in unison began to chant and cheer “U.S.A.” at us. The chanting, cheering, clapping, screaming and high-fiving from the crowd didn’t cease for the next couple miles of the parade route. Everybody recognized us as serving military members. And they were proud of us.

We sang a Jodie too, almost the entire way:

“Everywhere we go, people want to know

Who we are? So we tell them.

We are OutServe. Gay Military

Serving our country, Very Proudly

Huah Marine Corps

Huah Army

Huah Air Force

Huah Navy

Huah Coast Guard (our one Coastie marching with us fresh from the Academy couldn’t be left out!)

Huah OutServe”

The emotion rose up in me and by the end of the Parade as the group stood on the steps of a church to take a picture, I finally understood that Pride, for me, is not about all the surface things you see or a community coming together. Pride, for me, is about standing tall and being proud of myself and how far I’ve come. It is the same pride I feel for my service in the Air Force. Being an Airman is a big part of who I am. And so is being gay. It took marching in a parade with other out, serving Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines (and a Coastie) to recognize that this kind of Pride should be celebrated in whatever method you want to do it.

If that means walking down the street in a leather thong, or with Obama stickers over your nipples, then work it out. For me, forever now… after 17 years serving under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell… Pride will be about celebrating my service to my country and the path to open service. I’ll leave my leather thong at home.


About David Small

David Small, editor of OutServe Magazine’s blog, is a Major in the Air Force Reserve, stationed in New York, N.Y. Small’s perspective speaks to the everyday service member, gay or straight.

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