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In the name of love (pride)

As Orlando prepares for Come Out With Pride, we highlight some reasons to be proud of our LGBT community

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Since the ’70s, lesbian and gay bands formed across the country (visit gaybands.org for more information) with the same motivation. There’s the political statement of visibility made by any all-LGBT cultural group, and most bands also hope to provide support to local issue-based organizations. But it’s also about the music. Clement says the bands give people a chance to “return to their instruments. It’s fun. It’s a social sort of thing.”

Ten years ago he talked to a like-minded local; tentative plans were made, but nothing came of it. Six months ago, he decided to try again, and he met with some people with similar goals. One of them looked familiar: It turns out that Juan Canasi was the same man he’d talked to a decade ago about forming a band. “Once we met again, we realized that this just has to be done,” he says. “Not to be cheesy, but it’s kind of a destiny that this is going to happen this time.”

The Central Florida Sounds of Freedom Band and Color Guard – a convivial group of gay, lesbian and transgender musicians, many of whom haven’t marched with their instruments since high school – is now roughly 30 members strong. With just three months of practice under their belts, they’ve got full instrumentation, new uniforms and a dozen-member color guard, complete with drum major. Musicians from the Orlando Concert Band and the Orlando Gay Chorus are part of the CFSFB, but some band members haven’t picked up an instrument in 20 or 30 years. “It’s a challenge to get people playing like they were in high school,” Clement says. “There’s a little bit of fear there.”

Co-founders Clement, Canasi and Scott Stowell have worked hard to coax the band into shape by the weekend of Orlando’s Come Out With Pride festival; being “together enough” to take part in the parade has been their goal from the beginning.

The Parliament House parking lot has been home to the group’s practice sessions, and visitors haven’t failed to notice the festive group hot-stepping it across the asphalt. According to Clement, when prospective band members drop by Parliament House and see the musicians marching and sweating while the color guard is out front twirling their silks, they may be swayed: “They look fabulous.” (Sadly, however, the drum major is thus far resisting calls to twirl a fire baton at the parade.) In a show of unity, members of the South Florida Pride Marching Band and New York’s Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps will join the CFSFB in Saturday’s parade. “They’re doubling our numbers – we’re going to be over 60 people,” Clement says.

With several songs under consideration, the band has narrowed it down to four classics to be played Saturday, but Clement won’t reveal the final choices. Suffice it to say there’ll be no John Philip Sousa, though: “It’s a gay parade, honey. It’s gonna be fun,” he promises.

The way we were

The GLBT History Museum of Central Florida offers history without a home

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