Every year or two, I get a few emails challenging whether we even need Pride festivals anymore. Sure, there’s a commercial aspect that will keep them happening as long as money can be made. But every year, I decide that yes, definitely: Pride is important.

Of course, the attack on it has always been that the mainstream media concentrate on the outrageous stuff — that the only scenes you see on the TV news are the leather daddies, the drag queens and the twinks. And here’s the dirty secret we don’t want our hetero friends to know: Most gay guys are just as embarrassed by the half-naked methheads as they are. Drunks becoming super-sexualized and losing inhibitions and behaving inappropriately in public is a scourge. I’m not just talking about gay guys at Pride; I’m talking about straight guys on St. Patrick’s Day and straight girls at Mardi Gras. Gays are hardly the only ones who do not exactly have a monopoly on bad behavior. The difference is, no one says Girls Gone Wild 4 represents all womanhood, and it doesn’t. And not all gay folks are exhibitionists.

But this is the thing: So what if some people embarrass us? The whole point of Pride is: Be yourself, and embrace your differences. Let’s face it, there are a lot of nice bodies on some of those guys and gals — why not show it off if you’re proud of that?

You know what I am proud of?

I’m proud of the parents who walk side by side with their gay children and let others in the crowd (the gay ones who didn’t have that support and the straight folks who are concerned about what it means if they accept something they don’t understand) know that love is never wrong.

I’m proud of the churches that march in solidarity, showing religious folks that hate is not a value, and that if you believe in God, you have to believe in unconditional love and the right of all men to be spiritual and sexual as they choose, without being condemned by closed-minded bigots.

I’m proud of corporations, who are primarily concerned with profits, demonstrating how money is one thing, but people are more important, and respecting your employees and your customers is never bad business.

I’m proud of those who march in favor of marriage equality.

I’m proud of the drag queens, who could teach a lot of straight folks about what it means to be a strong man — those girls looked fabulous in makeup and heels in the rain.

I’m proud of politicians who know that gays vote, and there’s never a downside to relating to your constituents as people.

I’m proud of the straight people who got the chance to experience warmth and affection from us, and realize we are all just people.

I’m proud of the thousands of folks who stood out in the rain for four hours or more, because they didn’t care they were getting wet — they just cared they were having fun and cheering on.

And I’m proud of half-naked twinks. They did entertain us.