The Pride Experience ~ Outside the Margins with William Cooper

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William Cooper OtM


No religion can talk about being persecuted until they’ve had to walk through a protest to get into their church. They can’t talk about persecution until they’ve had people shouting at them as they drove by. Those are the things attendees of Atlanta Pride had to put up with.

Attending Pride, any Pride, is a rite of passage for LGBT people. For me, living in the heart of the bible belt with a conservative family, it’s one I’d never experienced until now. Thanks to the wonderful JP Barnaby and Shae Connor, I attended my first Pride this past weekend.

The weekend started with Rubber Night at the Atlanta Eagle, which I ended up missing due to getting over a stomach bug. So JP went out and partied with all the boys without me. Not much of a loss for me, personally, since I’m not a big party person.

Saturday started with a magnificent brunch and mimosas, courtesy of a good friend of JP and Shae. Eight of us started the day with laughs and great food. The perfect way to really begin my very first Pride weekend, in my opinion.

After that, we headed to Piedmont Park to check out the festival, which is where we ran into our hellfire preachers. Fortunately, we managed to keep JP from kicking any of the preachers. And a lovely woman, not the least bit put off by the douches with megaphones, stood next to them handing out lollipops and wishing everyone a happy pride.


Although it sucked we got rained on, it was totally worth it to see the preachers scatter like cockroaches. Apparently their hateful god forgot to send them umbrellas. Whoops.

Inside the festival, the only booths more common than Smirnoff tents were different churches, advertising their loving and caring version of religion. They embraced everyone who approached them with open arms, wearing Pride shirts and displaying signs of acceptance and love.


Sunday is when the fun would really begin though. I had two options, watch the parade from the sidelines with Shae or march in the parade with JP and her friends from the Atlanta Eagle. I decided to go with option two, since I could watch a Pride Parade anytime, but my chances to be in one were fairly limited.

So, bright and early Sunday morning, JP and I headed to the Eagle to prepare. Even with some of the group hung over and sleep deprived, it was still a morning full of energy, excitement, and pride. After cramming everyone into three trucks and trailers, we were off to the parade. It took a bit of navigating and cursing, but we all made it there safe and sound and on time!

The arrival at the parade route was such a different experience than the festival. The hellfire preachers weren’t there, so the entire area was covered in rainbows and energetic people looking forward to a good time.


At first, I felt a little out of place. I’ve heard so much about all of JP’s leather family, but I’d never really met any of them. But they all welcomed me into the group with open arms, glad for another set of hands to help out with the float. Jonathan and Eddie were there, which gave me a little bit of a safety net, since I’d met them a while back. Eddie in particular was amazing, since we talked about comics and Nightwing for a while, which helped me relax.

Once the parade began, the energy of the crowd was overwhelming. Thousands upon thousands of people lined the streets of Atlanta to cheer us on. Rainbow flags waved from nearly every building we walked passed, even more waving from the crowd. Before we’d even been walking for five minutes, we went passed a church, whose members stood outside passing out ice cold bottles of water to everyone walking in the parade.

The hellfire preachers were contained to their little corner, covered up by a rainbow of giant flowers. Loving folks did their best to shield those in the parade from their spewing of hate. The Leather Panther float blasted music from its speakers, drowning out even their megaphone so no one had to listen to them.


It was exhausting, but I had an amazing time. Walking through crowds of people cheering is something you can’t even imagine. Seeing the amount of love and compassion people have for those they’ve never met or spoken to is life changing. This is definitely a weekend I won’t forget any time soon.

So I want to say thank you.

Thank you to JP for talking me into driving five and a half hours (with an hurricane on its way) for Pride. Thank you to Shae for putting up with me for a week and a half. Thank you to Sam for texting me all weekend and keeping me grounded. Thank you to the woman who stood next to the preachers yelling “HAPPY PRIDE” as people walked by, doing her absolute best to drown out their megaphones. Thank you to the father and young son who stood on the opposite corner from the preachers holding signs that said “Our love is bigger than your hate.” Thank you to the thousands of people who came out this weekend to show their support.

Thank you to everyone who goes out of their way to make everyone feel welcome, whether they’re gay, lesbian, straight, transgender, or whatever.

If you’d like to see more photos I took during Pride, you can view the album here.


~William Cooper



About William Cooper

William Cooper has been writing and reading since he was little. In 2010 he took the first step toward publishing a book and hasn’t looked back since. Whether it’s two men who met in college or brothers who have been in love their entire life, William loves to tell their story for everyone to read.

You can find William Cooper online at:
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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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