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Pride Reflections 2009
stirsmn
I wrote this just after last year's Pride.
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Predictably, I began to cry. For the fifth year in a row, the years that I have marched in the Pride Parade with my wife and son, the tears started flowing as we turned onto Hennepin Avenue, moving from the staging area to the parade route, and first seeing and hearing the crowd lining the street.

The first year that we marched, with our infant son in his stroller (asleep, he slept through his whole first Pride Parade), I was unprepared for the emotions that washed over me. I did not predict this would be one of those moments where my body simply cannot contain the joy, and the tears leak out my eyes, washing away the pain it was replacing. Any obstacles we have faced, any humiliation, I could feel leaving my body through those tears. But each year, the tears would come at that same spot, and I would begin to predict them, to know that the people cheering for our family would bring them on, and I always felt it was like an inoculation against what might come our way the rest of the year. This is what the Pride Parade means to me. This year I learned it has a completely different meaning for our now four-year-old son.
Truly, we’ve had it quite easy and have led and very privileged life in terms of Lesbian families. Sure, it took us a year and half to conceive our son, but that whole time we worked with a fertility clinic that treated us respectfully, that understood and acknowledged us as future parents, that never once dismissed the non-biological mother’s role in discussions or procedures. We did not and do not take this for granted, having heard of others’ experiences of being treated with ignorance and homophobia while working to conceive their children.
Sure, we had to spend large sums of money hiring a lawyer to be sure that our son would be able to be in the custody of his living mother, should the unthinkable happen and the mother giving birth were incapacitated or (G-d forbid) died during or closely after his birth. Yes, these are things that parents who can get marriage licenses don’t have to think about, and we did, but, we live in a state where money could buy us the security of not worrying that our child would end up in foster care if tragedy struck our family, leaving only one mother to care for him. We know there are many who live in states where no lawyer can produce that security.
And we could get our son a birth certificate that lists both his parents. Again, it came at large price tag, but there are many places in the US where the children of Gay and Lesbian parents cannot have a correct birth certificate and have to have only one parent listed. So, though the process was expensive and humiliating, we were grateful that we could endure it and come away with an accurate birth certificate for our son.
And of course these “privileges“ were only available to us because we could find a way to scrape together enough money to pay for them. The injustice that a child would be denied an accurate birth certificate and may encounter challenges resulting from that his whole life because his parents didn’t have a thousand dollars to buy it for him was not lost on us.
We could not access family insurance coverage through my wife’s job, which meant that we both had to have jobs providing insurance and had to place our son in daycare from infancy. But many families have to do so, and we felt lucky that we could get health care for all three of us, even if it came at the price of not having our son home longer.
But overall, we have encountered far less bigotry thus far than I imagined we would. While the government and laws do treat us unfairly, individual people have almost always been kind. There was that time that some young men shouted their hatred at us at the State Fair, fortunately before our son was born, so he was not witness to their bad behavior. And there was a woman in a department store who questioned us about our family and was incredulous when she found out my son has two moms. But she was not mean, just truly ignorant, in the sense of not knowing, not in the sense of being hateful. I patiently explained Lesbian families to her (I’m a teacher and she was asking, so it would go against my nature to not give her the information she was seeking) and my son, who was 2 at the time, listened and chimed in here and there, and later told me he just thought she was silly.
But beyond that, my extremely extroverted child, who talks to people everywhere we go and often mentions both of his mothers in the conversation, has thus far not encountered bigotry in the people he has met. I know that is likely to change as he gets older and goes out into the world, but for now I am glad for his innocence. It would never occur to him that someone might dislike our family for the silly reason of the gender of those who are in it. And though he knows the laws are not fair to Gays and Lesbians in this country, he has only seen people be kind to our family and I think would just be genuinely surprised by anything else. He will be shocked to one day discover that there are those who use their religion as an excuse to mistreat our family, as the many people of faith he knows (our family included) are kind folks who strive to treat people well.
The fact that he seems to take for granted that our family would be treated fairly has been driven home to me in some recent conversations we have had.
We had been active in Rainbow Families long before he was born, and have friends and family both from within and without that organization who are GLBT, along with a plethora of heterosexual folks that are part of our circle. A common goal of GLBT families is to make sure our children are around others with similar family structures, so they do not feel alone. We have never found this particularly challenging to provide our son, and certainly he spends plenty of time with kids from GLBT and heterosexual families alike.
Our son, who has not yet realized that he is a minority, who has not yet encountered the bigotry he no doubt will some day realize is out there, told me recently that he feels sorry for the “mom-dad families” because they don’t have a fun organization like Rainbow Families and they don’t have the Pride Festival and Parade. He was very reassured to find out that anyone can attend the Pride Festival and that even though the Parade is a GLBT celebration, many many Het folks march in it and no one would turn someone away just because they weren’t Queer. So while the Pride Parade has such importance to me as a chance to feel affirmed as a family, for my son, the meaning is completely different. He needs no such affirmation, taking it completely for granted and instead worries about sharing it with others. Yes, my son, who some might worry would not feel included because he is from a GLBT family, is more worried about the Heterosexual families and making sure things are fair for them.
Wow.
So this year, when we turned onto Hennepin Avenue and could hear the crowds cheering for us, and I saw my son smiling so big, the tears came as usual. But the tears were not just relief and joy that we have this one day for a crowd of thousands to cheer us on, but were also because my son has been able to completely take for granted that we would and only wishes others could share in the moment as well. I cried harder than ever.

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