I woke up yesterday morning at 6am to the sounds of more rustling than normal, and, just as I unzipped my tent, a flash of red sashayed past.
I smiled: It’s Red Dress Day, the legendary AIDS/LifeCycle tradition that calls for all riders, roadies and volunteers to dress in commemorative red on the Thursday of the week-long ride.
Bleary-eyed and shivering, I dragged myself over to Tent City. Riders were everywhere, working furiously on their costumes. I was instantly lost in a sea of Southern Belles, stewardesses, big wigs, fake boobs, and waves of red dresses.
As I wandered the lanes of Tent City chatting with jubilant riders in various forms of drag, I saw a half dozen red dresses on a tree on the distance; it was like a Dress Barn in the middle of nowhere! And standing right there was the Fairy Godmother of the Red Dress, holding a shimmering Asian gown that was just big enough for me to squeeze in without too much tearage.
I not-so-delicately slipped into the dress, and felt much more at ease as I glided down amongst the crowd. My legs were liberated, and I was colder than a witch’s crotch… but I was having a ball. Everyone was dressed up in some shape or form; it was like Burning Man for bicycling gays (and their always awesome allies).
This shared experience was something beyond the physical challenge of the ride – it was an empowering creative release that allowed the group to coalesce on a completely different plane. Completely unique and wholly satisfying.
As we folllowed the red ribbon of riders up the California blacktops, you could see the AIDS ribbon billowing in the wind. It was an indelible image of unity, a statement to the outside world that we are standing up against a disease that currently affects one in five American males. We are here, we’re queer and we’re all in this together.