Our town is so into Pride that we celebrate a whole month before anyone else. While the rest of the country usually celebrates LGBTQ people in June, we get our Pride on in May. Our entire downtown is transformed into an explosion of rainbow, with families, local businesses, religious organizations and various LGBTQ groups all marching side by side in solidarity. And, like clockwork, every year we’re there, occasionally handing out rainbow cookies or cupcakes, and cheering everyone on.
I remember the first time my son called Pride the “Rainbow Parade.” He was 2-and-a-half and it was his third time attending our town’s Pride Parade. We were there supporting friends and enjoying our vibrant, diverse town. My son, in all his youth and naive wonder, clapped his hands at the “Rainbow Parade,” loving the swaths of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple that coated the downtown area. Balloons, posters, streamers, flags; you name it, it was there and it was rainbow-colored. It was the closest thing to a toddler fantasy that you could get.
He was a little older at his next Pride parade. This time, he kept asking me about all those “fancy ladies” (aka the fabulous drag queens that would march in the parade and perform at the gathering afterward). In later years, our conversations would become much more complex as he asked about transgender men and women. And yet, again, with childlike acceptance, he had no trouble understanding any of it, and even connecting what he learned to a friend of his at school who was assigned one gender at birth, but at times strongly feels pulled between both genders, not really solidly feeling on either side of the spectrum. But this child is fully embraced, accepted, and even understood by the other children, including my son.
And so we continue each year to attend our Rainbow Parade. A year or two ago, my son finally asked me why we have this parade. I try to explain to him that not too long ago, and even now in some areas of the country and the world, there are people who get angry when people of the same gender love each other and want to get married and have the same rights as everyone else. My son looks at me like I have two heads. He just can’t comprehend this. My son, who goes to a religious school where one-third of the parents identify on the LGBTQ spectrum. Where it’s really not unusual for a friend to have two moms. Where playing “family” sometimes includes two dads or two moms, depending on how many kids are playing and how many roles need to be filled. How could anyone deny these people, and these families, the right to live their lives, their truths?
So, it’s for this reason that we continue to go year after year to our town’s Rainbow Parade. My son is able to see his community celebrating people who are his friends and neighbors. He’s able to see churches and synagogues that support and cherish LGBTQ members. He is able to see all of this as normal, because in our world, that’s what it is. My hope is that he’s able to take this thoughts and experiences out with him when he eventually grows up and moves out into the world and witnesses or possibly even experiences some of the bigotry that exists. If all of this sprouts from a little ROYGBIV parade action, imagine what could happen if every town had a similar rainbow parade for children to enjoy?