In recent weeks, BoyGirPapa and I have had some heart-to-heart conversations with Alex about bullying, what it means to be different, and the people and communities who take a stand to show their support. We’ve introduced Alex to web sites like http://www.stopbullying.gov/ and have replayed videos produced for the It Gets Better Project. We shared our wild jubilation at the passage of same sex marriage in New York. In it all, it’s as if we hinge our next reaction to Alex’s own reaction.
Quick aside and confession: I have long wanted to participate in the Pride Parade hosted in San Francisco in June. With all the fanfare, expression, and outspoken acceptance, I’ve sensed it would be an unforgettable experience to see first-hand, and not just on TV.
As we watched the 41st annual Pride Parade on TV today, I scoured the crowds for familiar faces. I looked for members of my local chapter of PFLAG and the parent support community, Gender Spectrum Family, to which I belong. If I couldn’t be there in person, I wanted to see someone I knew who could represent on my behalf the enormous pride I have in both of my children, especially the one who will most likely directly benefit from all that the Pride Parade stands for.
“Hey Alex, isn’t this cool? Look at all the fun these people are having!” My subtle attempt to broach the topic was apparently either obvious or disregarded.
“Mm hm,” he answered, mesmerized by the theatrics. I wondered if he secretly wished he could be there sharing his own flamboyant little self with the rest of the world.
“You know, we might know some people there. Would you ever want to walk in this parade? I think we could figure out a way to make that happen if you did.”
And in a flash, all my hopes were dashed.
“NO.” He replied with such decisiveness and conviction that I knew better than to even push the request. I realized in that moment that if I ever am able to persuade him, it will not be easy.
But the whole thing got me thinking: why doesn’t he embrace this community or this opportunity? The people dancing in the street with the big smiling –and painted—faces are SO CLEARLY cut from the same cloth as him. It’s not hard to imagine him as an adult being a part of this annual celebration. So why, then, was he so adamant about not participating or wanting to be a part of this celebration?
It occurs to me that the generation of children who will grow up to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and every other place on the gorgeous spectrum are not the same people we see participating in the parade today.
These people we see today are not just celebrating same sex marriage, dissolution of DADT, or being Who You Are. They are celebrating victories won over long, hard fought battles of oppression, rejection, disapproval. Most of these individuals have experienced these actions and feelings on a day to day basis, many from people that are supposed to be their biggest supporters and advocates, but who failed them. These are the outcasts who have not only found their place, but charted the course for the major shift in sentiment toward the entire LGBT community. They're the ones who we have to thank for being where we are today.
Alex has never experienced the kind of pain that so many of our LGBT brothers and sisters have had to endure. In a sense, he cannot relate to them or their experiences. And that’s a good thing. For Alex, being a BoyGir is a normal, everyday part of life. I have to believe that for him, dancing around in the street being as flamboyant as one can be, would be to call attention to the difference that at this point in his life, he is able to pretend does not exist.
In his memoir Johnny Weir (one my favorite LGBT role models) came out to the surprise of absolutely no one. As it turns out, the gay community had been pressuring him to not only come out, but to represent them:
"All the gay websites couldn't figure out why I was such a jerk that I wouldn't talk about it," he writes in his book. "But pressure is the last thing that would make me want to 'join' a community...The massive backlash against me in the gay media and community only made me dig my 'closeted' heels in further." (excerpt from http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-01-06/gossip/27086601_1_johnny-weir-autobiography-closet)
This statement only made me adore Johnny even more than I already did. True to his words, Johnny lives his belief proving in yet another way that he is who he is because that’s how he was born. He doesn’t need to answer, or perform, or do anything for anybody because he’s gay. I love it, and not just because I admire people who take a stand, but also because it tells me that the tides really are changing. Imagine a world in which you get to be gay and not have to fight for it. You get to expect the same equal treatment in health care and the legal system that your straight counterparts enjoy. I wonder what Harvey Milk would think were he alive today.
It would seem that for youth these days being out and proud doesn’t have to mean you need to dance in streets at Pride Parade to show your commitment to a movement. Sure, some people can, and hey power to them! But for our next generation, it seems that being out and proud can also mean celebrating the victories much in the same way we celebrate the 4th of July as Independence Day—that is, to a certain degree, this generation may not personally feel the pain or gain of such hard-won achievements. While we should never forget the past lest history repeat itself, there is something deeply joyous in all this.
I’m proud of my gay family members and friends. I thank them deeply from the very center of my soul. It’s because of them that Alex is allowed to find his voice and his place in the world, standing tall and feeling proud of who he is.
Lately, both my kids have been singing Katy Perry's "Firework" at the top of their lungs. I can't help but feel uplifted when I hear the lyrics.
Cause baby you're a firework
Come on show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y
Baby you're a firework
Come on let your colors burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe-awe-awe
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