Men strode through the festival wearing banana hammocks. Women kissed women. Drag queens sported legs befitting a gazelle and endured the entire two-and-a-half mile parade route in 5-inch heels. Gay and lesbian couples, kids in tow, caught lollipops tossed from passing floats.

The annual N.C. Pride Festival and Parade in Durham celebrates the Triangle’s LGBTQ community and its straight allies, including progressive church congregations, bars, nonprofits, elected officials and political candidates, and even traditional corporations such as Time Warner Cable and PNC Bank.

As a straight person, I’ve seen my LGBTQ friends be denied the rights I take for granted. In high school, I remember regretting that my gay and lesbian classmates couldn’t safely come out in rural Indiana. I left the Catholic Church, in part, because of its discriminatory attitude toward the LGBTQ community.

But on this day, I put that aside. It was a time to be joyful. I celebrated my friends. I connected with strangers. I felt proud of my city.