We’re taking some time this Pride to look out for ourselves and each other, with the intentionality and respect we all deserve. What do we really need right now? How can we show up for each other? How can we celebrate the resilience of this community while still making space for our own rest? How do we honestly feel about Pride?
The first time I went to a Pride event, I was 22, fully grown, and very recently visibly out. I had been vocally out for five years already, but because I had a boyfriend, hadn’t fully allowed myself to enter LGBTQ spaces due to internalized biphobia mixed with actual biphobia. However, at Syracuse Pride 2005, I had, for the first time, a queer partner who was very visibly queer. Being together transferred that visibility to me. Pride was my first experience with queer normative space outside of the small LGBTQ student club on our campus. It was my first queer normative space outside in the world, not shrouded in a windowless room, not mixed with the general populace, a place where I was assumed to be queer by all the other queers who I also assumed to be queer. Taking it all in casually, as though it was not a big deal, I held tight to the quiet thrill of being not just visible, but seen.
The first time I took my child to a Pride event, she was in a stroller. Waffle, Remi, and I were walking with my then-employer, the ACLU of NY, in our local upstate NY Pride parade. It was 2017, the year that ACLU affiliates all over the U.S. were being named as grand marshalls of Pride parades. We were a small walking contingent and Remi was the only kid in our group. Walking in our local parade in our medium-size city, the city we’d lived for over a decade, I saw friends, acquaintances, community connections, former students and former coworkers–our community waving and cheering us on from the sidewalk. Whether we would bring Remi, our then-one-year-old, to Pride was never a question for my family.
As a parent, I have a lot of grievances about Pride and the related marches, parades, festivals, and events. Not one of them is about bare body parts or floats packed with dancers in skimpy underwear or drag performers or leather dykes and daddies. It took me 22 years to discover queer- and trans-affirming spaces. I don’t want Remi to wait for even one year. Pride is already for family, our LGBTQ families and communities, so of course, I would bring my family to Pride. Now, will I bring Remi into a beer tent or a sweaty gay bar? No. (At least not until she’s of legal drinking age or moved out, then she can do whatever she wants.)
Already, I worry that Remi hasn’t been exposed to enough queer culture. Yes, she has a queer family, but we go by “mommy” and “daddy” and we’re just starting to really get a full comprehension of non-binary gender. Though she has gazillions of books about LGBTQ families, she is most interested in reading the books about her favorite TV shows or National Geographic books about ocean animals. That said, she has a non-binary dad and a bisexual mom and we frequently encourage her to engage with media or discussion of gay and lesbian people even if she turns the conversation back to sharks. Remi may not be particularly interested in learning all the terminology and types of families in the world because this is all very typical to her. Sure, kids can have two moms. Sure, people can be neither a boy nor a girl. Sure, people determine their own gender. Normal stuff.
Most kid’s spaces are actually heteronormative spaces, deeply entrenched in “mom culture” and the strict gender binary. It’s near impossible to fight it unless you want to live off the grid in queer-only space. Maybe that’s possible in some places. Where I live, Rochester, NY, I’d have to curate that space from scratch if I wanted it. I don’t have time for that. If you’re sending your kid to daycare or school or to playgroup or even the playground, the world will forcefully press binary gender into your kid’s head. So all that messaging we’re doing at home gets challenged and sometimes reversed by other powerful people in Remi’s life: her teachers, classmates, friends, and the characters in the mainstream media she consumes.
For all its imperfections, Pride is one of the only places I can take Remi that reinforces the messages we try to convey at home, that all bodies are good bodies, that gender is expansive and individual, that clothes have no gender, that there are other people like her parents and other families like ours. I want Remi to be comfortable with bodies and with boundaries, to know what queer and trans joy looks like. She needs it to counter all the negative messages she’ll receive outside our home. I want her to know our rich, diverse histories and, when she’s old enough, dive deep into unlearning the false narratives about gay liberation and bi culture and trans existence. I want her to feel proud of who she is and have a strong foundation in learning about sexuality and gender to better understand herself as she grows older. I want her to feel that we are part of something bigger than us or than her individually, a community.
Pride events don’t need to change a thing to be family-friendly. My queer family feels welcome, and if you don’t feel welcome, you’re probably not part of the family. In which case, go to literally any other summer event made and paid for by heterosexual people.
If anything, I wish more Pride events were getting back to their roots of being radical marches and demonstrations that don’t fuck with corporations and that push the boundaries of the status quo. I wish Pride events centered on Black trans women and BIPOC queer and trans communities and de-centered white men. I wish for fewer police officers and more freedom. I want Pride to be a place where people can feel that sense of belonging I felt at my first Pride 16 years ago, no matter their race, age, gender, size, ability, or how much money they have.
Pride isn’t perfect. In fact, Pride isn’t even happening in my city this year in the traditional way. The local org that took over Pride after the last org that ran Pride folded, has also folded in on itself. Members of the community are picking up the pieces and organizing community events at the beach, the amusement park, a BYO picnic in the park, and other free or subsidized summer activities. Frankly, I think this is more the spirit of Pride in the first place, caring for each other when no one else is paying attention or paying for our attention, demanding space in a world not always safe for us, and ensuring our spaces represent the world we hope to create together. Those are the safe spaces I want to bring Remi to and I hope they’re filled with crop tops, booty shorts, leather, drag, people of all sizes and races and genders flaunting their beauty, queer kissing, and, of course, rainbows. Lots of rainbows.