First, I’m sorry the living of life has largely usurped the documenting and analysis thereof — I’ve missed encapsulating my thoughts, but I think I needed to have some experiences* to have much new to say.
I’ve blogged previously about the idea that there is a nuanced up and down to choosing a life of visibility, because it confers the opportunity for advocacy, and of stealth, because it confers the opportunity for normalcy. I admit sometimes I still work on what the balance is for me — I never feel obligated to share every detail of my story, much like I respect Laverne Cox’s decision not to talk about her body and surgeries and things like that. At Pride, a really sweet young straight ally who worked the information tent with me joined in a conversation with me and a trans man friend who came by to say hello to me. He was really intrigued and interested in the fact that my friend had transitioned and had a lot of (good) questions to ask. Later, he said to me, “So you’re, like, a lipstick lesbian?” Well, yes, basically**. What can I say? Welcome to Pride, one lesson at a time, knowing all the terminology is really not required or the point, and I guess every conversation need not be an opportunity for education (and, plus, the whole thing was funny).
Back up a step. I should clarify that, last month, I attended my first Pride, as far as I know. It’s possible I stopped by a Pride somewhere (I remember kiss-ins on the Diag at university, but I don’t remember Pride itself). Anyway, even if I did attend a Pride briefly somewhere, I never did so as a queer-identified person, nor did I volunteer at one. Saturday, I was info tent girl, hostessing Pride for most of the time between 7AM and 7PM! So I didn’t just go to Pride, I rocked the Calder.
(That was the actual theme)
My first Pride was a blast.
7000 people there. Four or five protesters, and everybody else loving on each other and having a good time and celebrating how good it is to be alive. I made it through a 12 hour shift in low heels***. And was cheery***.5. And got hundreds of people to fill out surveys, one for the Network relating to LGBT healthcare/wellness experiences, and the other for a project of my girlfriend’s****, on trying to better characterize homelessness experiences of LGBT youth in West Michigan, and advocate for better services.
It was Grand Rapids Nice… there were, I think, at least four churches with booths, and one or two more roaming the Plaza and chatting people up without a booth (all on our side… God knows where the protesters come from).
Oh, there were protesters, as I said a couple of times. A handful of them. One of them got disrespectful with a megaphone (in violation of city code) and the police officers on parade duty shut him down. The others were … well, as nice as people, who have an awful and dehumanizing view of religion that spurs hatred and intolerance, can be. I (and a few others) went out and said hello to them, made sure they were doing all right (I told them I appreciated their taking the time to come out… why not? They don’t make me look bad), and offered water (but they came with). We kept sunscreen at the info tent, too, because we’re just lovey like that, us queer folk, who recognize that actually being queer is the thing we’re proud about, but keeping people healthy and saving the planet are really, really important, too.
One of the local network affiliates did a kind of ridiculous piece on our Pride. About 6-8 sentences spent on the marshals (we had April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, an excellent choice), and then paragraphs about the four or five protesters. Okay, I can’t be too mean to these guys … the coverage stank, but they’ve been good to me, and most of the times I’ve had the opportunity to be on TV have been with them. It seems conspicuous, however, to write an article and not mention the 7000 people who came to Pride and had a great time (I met most of them, I should know). Or the organization that hosted Pride. Or the churches that came out, or the vendors, or, … how outside of the world of lawsuits and protesters and throwing slushies, we’re quietly becoming an integrated, deeply entrenched, economically powerful, and vibrant part of the community. And slowly, but surely, we’re advertising it.
It’s hard, though, and I think anyone who’s really gotten into Pride knows, to focus on the negative. And don’t let me do what the TV station did. It was an amazing, overwhelming day. I made friends and strengthened friendships and laughed and danced and hugged and loved and had some kind of pink lemonade shandy that was amazing-pants. I studiously avoided having to use the porta-potties, because even a homo can only do so much with those things, and the elephant ears, because, really, I’m not 8 anymore*****.
If you Google Elephant Ears, you get a Wikipedia page for Fried Dough… and Type II Diabetes. Just right there on the spot. For serious.
We decided not to go out and party at the end of the night, although that was ramping up as we walked off. Teri and I came home (breeze in the convertible … heavenly after 12 hours on my feet), had a drink on the deck, I think made some nachos in the oven, and went to bed. And I cried in her arms. Happy, happy tears. Of pride. And … that’s what it’s like to know that I am loved, that my life, my love, and my gifts matter, and that I belong.
* There’s a lot going on! Of particular note things like name-change-court-date…. Also there’s a great quote from Their Eyes Were Watching God that’s something about having lived so much as to be content on memories alone, but I can never seem to find it again. Love, love that novel, by the way, a masterpiece.
** We’ve had it out over my orientation, but I’m femme, all the way. We did have a healthy debate, Teri (who is not femme) and I, on this business of femme vs. lipstick lesbian… then apparently there are chapstick lesbians, and SPF30 lesbians, and … gawd … Teri just makes me swoon and get mushy inside. Leave it at that.
*** Which, apparently, are some kind of environmentally friendly shoe… Timberland Earthkeepers. Who even knew Timberland made cute strappy sandals?
***.5 Seriously, I can be obnoxiously perky at times.
**** Teri also made up with like three or four people following a long-running dispute, while totally outdoing the gay guys at bartending, because, seriously, never let a gay man do a lesbian’s job.
***** Speaking of letting a gay man do the job, I should admit that I just finished Wade Rouse’s At Least In The City, Someone Would Hear Me Scream for book club … I’m channeling a little bit of his snark here. I can only do snark in small quantities. Did I mention that, in the “Which OITNB character are you?” quiz, I’m Piper (if not, re-read note 3.5)? And Teri was Vause. Hmmm… She’s writing fiction on her laptop right next to me while I’m writing a blog post. Hmmm… and I swear, the chicken is real.