[ This entry is a bit belated as it's the most deeply personal writing I've done on this blog. I'm almost hesitant to publish it, but I believe it's important to be completely honest and open about who I am in hopes that I can provide an example to any other parents raising their children in "stealth queer" families. If you find this uncomfortable, I merely ask that you refrain from comment as truly - I've heard it all before. If this resonates with you, I'd love to hear from you. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Many thanks. ]
My first Pride parade was… probably in college. Maybe in high school? Certainly not before then. Southern Vermont has parades of cows (seriously) but not much else. While Vermont was the first state to have civil unions for same sex couples, the GLBT community – like all Vermont communities – is small and scattered. Much easier to organize a parade of cows as there are more of them than people.
This is not to say that my first Pride parade was my first experience with Pride or with GLBT culture. That came much, much earlier. I remember clearly my first exposure to the idea that same-sex attraction was a thing that was an option in life: sitting in the car with my mom (I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old), discussing my godfather and asking when he was going to get married – and she explained that he didn’t love women, he loved men, and while men were in love, they couldn’t get married. That they were in love made perfect sense. That they couldn’t have a wedding, not so much. I glossed over “Oh, I guess you need a bride and groom” and that was really about it for my thoughts on the matter.
While not pondering gay marriage too hard, thanks to my godfather I had the exposure to GLBT culture in my family that I lacked in my community. We would watch a queer news program on the weekends which focused on things like GLBT rights, the AIDS crisis – this was the late 80s – etc, etc. I remember being about eight and watching this with my mom and saying rather casually – “Mom, I don’t understand lesbians.” The response stuck with me – “Well, you’re probably not one then.”
And lo, I wasn’t. But I also wasn’t straight either.
I realized very young (about thirteen) that my attractions to other humans were not what I was taught to expect. While I felt all gooey and butterflies in my stomach about certain boys… I felt that way about girls too. I’ve gone round and round with trying to define my sexuality – certain segments in the queer community definitely perpetuate the sort of biphobia that caused me to lose friends upon dating a man in college for suddenly being a “traitor” simply for having a seemingly heteronormative relationship. I’ve come be comfortable in my bisexuality (though I prefer the term “queer” since bisexuality implies a duality in the sexes which denies the reality of gender fluidity and trans* folk, which could be a very long digression indeed) even though in queer spaces I feel a bit as if I’m standing on the margins looking in on a world that I used to inhabit more comfortably when I was in relationships with women. To be even more specific, I define myself as a “stealth queer” – seemingly heteronormative to an outside observer, queer on the inside.
And so – Pride is something important to me. It’s one day per year where I can be fully in my community and a part of the larger GLBT picture without having to specifically “come out.” I’m also grateful that talking about Pride gives me the opportunity to “come out” to friends who I might not ever have those conversations with otherwise. I feel very strongly that it’s important for us “stealth queers” to come out from the shadows and reinforce that GLBT folk – especially those of us Bs who are in opposite sex relationships that blend in to the “straights” – are just normal people with normal families. Pride to me feels like coming home. While I’ve come and gone from schools and jobs and religious affiliations and other communities as I’ve settled into adulthood, the queer community has been my home since I was thirteen.
(And truly, if I can put in a plug here – I can’t thank my godfather enough for his example that my coming to terms with being queer didn’t include the fear of losing my relationship with my mother. Other family members have been a different story – but I never had doubt of her support due to the way queer issues were always a sort of non-issue in our home. I never felt like this made me a “freak” or an “outcast,” even at the times when I felt like it made me a visible target in the hunting ground that is adolescence.)
With all that the queer community has meant to me over my life, it’s important to me to share it with Paulo (and any future children I may have). I don’t know when or how I’ll ever “come out” to him, but I hope to show him the way my godfather showed me that queer people are just people. That the queer community is about embracing who you are, no matter who you love. Just as much as Pride is about pride – it’s about love. It’s about self-love and saying “I love who I am even if it’s not who society expected me to be.” It’s about saying “I love who I love.” And it’s about the community saying back “We love you, no matter who you are, no matter who you love.”
More and more each year, I see more strollers and children in the parade. More families. More gay and lesbian families coming out of the woodwork showing that hey, family is family and love is love. More heteronormative couples bringing their children to Pride saying love is to be celebrated no matter what it looks like. Even if it doesn’t look like us.
More and more churches each year march in the parade as well, saying that faith is about love – not casting people out. I had such a horrible time trying to be a Christian as a teenager at the same time as I grappled with being queer. I was told by certain family that it was a rebellion against God, that it was a phase, that I was possessed by Satan himself. I was hurt so deeply in the name of Jesus for being who I am that I began to question if the message of Christianity was even real at all – knowing to my core that I had not chosen nor could I change who I am and who I love and also knowing just as innately that it was not implanted in me by any kind of dark or evil force. (Ultimately this and other issues lead to my leaving the church and finding my own path – which is another long story and ended in my returning to the Buddhism my mother had raised me in as a child.) There was one moment during the parade where a very sizeable church group was marching and chanting “Have faith, have pride” and I nearly started crying. That message had been missing from my own life and it was exactly the message I wanted my son to hear.
Have faith, have pride, have love. There is so much love in the world, and I want my son to know that whatever shape his love takes I will love him and have pride in him to the ends of the earth and back.
[ And now, a massive photo dump. I can't not include each and every one of these images that shows and celebrates the vibrancy of my community. ]