Every June, the LGBTQ+ community becomes the center of attention as we celebrate Pride month. Pride commemorates the Stonewall uprising, a series of protests that took place over a few nights at the end of June in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in NYC. Since the first parade in 1970, members of the community (and those who call themselves allies) take to the streets around the world to celebrate how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. While there are more in person events this year than last year, it’s still largely virtual. And I’ve learned that Pride is more of a mindset than a parade, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish we could celebrate more publicly too.
Pride has always been complicated for me. I want so desperately to go balls to the wall and celebrate. But at the same time, I know that Pride has taken on an overly commercial, capitalist tone. I want to buy all of the rainbow shit from Target, but I also want to burn it all down and take things back to their roots. It’s such a tough place to be in. I buy all the gay shit that I can own, because I love that it’s becoming accessible, even if it is just a capitalist grab at making more money for an already rich company. Imagine being a closeted kid running errands with your mom and seeing an entire Pride section as soon as you walk into the store. Imagine being an adult seeing that your favorite store wants to support you. It may be capitalist propaganda, but it makes a big difference when it comes to broader visibility.
Visibility is a huge part of Pride and always has been. Stonewall was a revolution to be seen as human. The subsequent celebrations came about to be able to loudly proclaim that no one was ever going to be able to strip us of our humanity and dignity again. There’s a lot of power in seeing millions of LGBTQ+ people take to the streets to say, “I’m here, I matter, and no one can take that away from me.” I remember watching Pride parade coverage over the years and feeling equal parts joy and envy. As a person who was only “out” to a small number of people for a good portion of her life, it was really isolating to carry that around. But I also liked seeing people who could be out at a time where I didn’t feel I could.
Even though I’ve known I was queer since I was around 12 or 13, I spent a large portion of my life hiding that part of myself. In the late 90s/early 00s, I had never heard the word bisexual. I knew lesbians, but I didn’t know that you could like makeup and clothes and still be into women. So I kept it to myself. I hooked up with my first girl when I was 17, and the friends I told weren’t as encouraging as I hoped. So for the next 10 years or so, I only told a few people. I’d see my more openly queer friends posting pictures from Pride and always felt a twinge in my heart. But I didn’t want to be there as anything other than 100 percent who I was, and I was so scared to be “out” to everyone.
At the age of 31, I finally came out as bisexual. It had been a year since I ended my long term relationship with a man (the father of my son) and while I wasn’t ready to date anyone, I knew I couldn’t keep hiding who I was. Because I knew that when I did start to date again, I was going to date women. Even though I was out, I still didn’t go to my first Pride parade. I wanted to go alone, and as a single mom, getting a babysitter wasn’t easy. But I had decided that babysitter or not, I was going to go to Pride 2020. And well, we know what happened to that.
I was hoping for some in-person Pride this year for one really big reason: my son. Last year, I met and fell in love and became engaged to an amazing woman. And I want him to see other families like ours in person. None of our local queer friends have kids — he’s only seen other two mom families on social media. It would be cool to go to a family friendly Pride event and see other families like ours. Maybe even make some friends.
Obviously, there’s still plenty of time for that. But my son is seven, and he’s at an age where he’s still open enough to just accept things. Right now, he thinks having two moms is the most normal thing in the world, because to him, it is. But one day, potentially in the near future, he’s going to be told by a peer that his family isn’t normal, perhaps that it’s something to be ashamed of. The early elementary school years are tricky when you’re a queer parent. Because your kid knows that all of this is totally normal and fine. But they’re now around kids that may be filling their mind with other ideas. And I can do all the work in the world at home, but when you’re in kindergarten/first/second grade, your peers’ opinions matter a lot.
If we could go to a Pride parade and see all sorts of gender expressions and sexual orientations, it would only further cement all the lessons I’ve been teaching him since he was young. He likes to have something tangible to see and reinforce things he’s learned about. It’s one thing to hear about it in a book or even on TV, but to see it happening in real time? That is something that can only happen in person. But beyond that, I really want him to see that there are so many people in the LGBTQ+ community. He knows what Pride is, and why we celebrate it, but I want him to be able to participate in it as much as possible. Obviously we can do that at home, but it’s something else to be there.
As a queer parent and Black woman, I spend so much time teaching my son about the struggle my communities go through. We recently got a children’s book about the Stonewall Inn, and then had a great discussion about what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. I tell him about all the queer elders who gave their lives for me and his stepmom to be able to be together. He knows that without Black and brown folx, especially trans women, there would be no fight. But I also want him to see the joy our community has when we get to be unabashedly queer. Because to me, that’s equally important when you’re talking about Pride. I want our family to be able to stand among our people proclaiming that we are here and we’re not gonna let anyone take that away.
I know that Pride is about so much more than wearing rainbows and marching in a parade. Even after everything the LGBTQ+ community has been through, we’re still fighting for our humanity. For our right to be seen as worthy and equal. That’s what Pride is about. I want to honor all of the elders who paved the way for me to live the life I do now. But I also know that for me, it’s also about being openly and loudly proud of who I am and who I love. I want to be able to tell the world that I will no longer hide to make other people comfortable. However, I also know that I do that everyday, parade or not. Guess I’ll just have to wait another year.
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