At dinner on June 1, I reminded my kids that it was the start of Pride Month. At first, they looked at me like, isn’t it always Pride Month?
Well, yes; around here it is. I am a queer, nonbinary parent, and one of my daughters is transgender. My kids (9 and 7-year-old twins) were made from LGBTQIA+ diversity; we love and celebrate who we are year-round. But each June (and again in September when our town has the march and festival), we embrace what makes us “different.” Pride increases the visibility and representation of families like ours, and my kids take pride in the fact that the world is honoring them and our family.
I reassured my kids that our identities and sexualities are always valid, but I also had to tell them that Pride events have been canceled because of the pandemic. My oldest looked at me and said, “Ugh. I hate this coronavirus! All of the things I look forward to are canceled!”
She’s right. So much of what we want and need are not available right now, and there is so much to miss, including Pride.
I have experienced Pride through many phases of my coming out process and gender transition. I have gone from feeling gleefully defiant as a person in my young 20s to a seasoned but emotionally drained parent and queer advocate who has a better understanding of how important Pride is for my community. The intersection of my life as an advocate and parent is what moves me most.
Each year, I host a Family Tent at our city’s Pride festival. It’s a quiet place where kids apply a temporary tattoo, color a picture, and connect with other kids who also have two moms, two dads, or a transgender parent. My kids benefit from seeing other kids who have families like them, too. One year my oldest daughter met a young woman who, like her, was conceived using a sperm donor. Besides her siblings, this was the first time my daughter had met someone who had a similar story to hers. My daughter knew she was loved, but meeting a person like her made her feel affirmed.
This happens for queer parents, too. Pride is a safe place where queer families can connect and talk about the drudgery and joys of parenting that run parallel to and are sometimes overshadowed by being queer in a heteronormative society. Pride offers a space that is ours, and I will miss the gratitude on folks’ faces as they float in and out of the tents and crowds.
I will miss marching in the parade and being overwhelmed by the crowd cheering and waving flags because they believe love is love and everyone should have the right to their true identity. My kids will miss the feeling of being the stars of the show. It’s not just Pride — it’s their Pride.
They get excited when friends and teachers call out from the parade route or show up at our tent to say hello. These people are our allies, yet my kids don’t know that there are people in the world — in our town — who are actively against them. They don’t understand yet that allies are vital to the rights we have. They know some people don’t think being gay or transgender is OK, but as their friend shows off a new rainbow belt on their behalf, they don’t know that some people would beat us with that belt before admitting we are acceptable human beings.
I will miss attending Pride with my partner. So many straight, cisgender people take for granted their ability to publicly show affection to the person they love. It’s a privilege if your second-nature instinct to reach for the hand of the person you are walking with or steal a kiss while at the park isn’t met with the instinct to look around to see if it is safe to do so.
For me and other queer folks, it is often an act of defiance to hold hands with or flirt with our loves. We know many places are not safe for us, so we do our best to not draw attention to ourselves despite knowing it shouldn’t be this way. But at Pride, we can love and live with abandon. I hold tight to my person and to the hope that one day loving won’t be a dangerous act.
Pride is a place to show our scars, too. Not just the ones on our hearts, but the ones on our bodies that we fought to wear. I had gender-affirming top surgery last fall and was looking forward to showing off the scars from the double incision mastectomy I had to remove my breasts. Showing off doesn’t equate to bragging; it’s a show and receipt of solidarity from others who have also suffered from body dysphoria. Pride is a place where all genders and gender expressions are welcome and celebrated. It’s also about celebrating the journey to get there.
Pride is bigger than a month filled with marches and festivals, but I am still going to miss these events. The connections and ease of being in the majority for once help us sustain our year-round fight to be seen and treated as equal.