When Kiddo asked me to go to gay pride in our state capitol, I was all, no! I have to work on my book! I was worried, too, that my bad knee would give out on a long march. Then I remembered the Golden Crown Literary Society back in June, and how I danced for hours with anyone in sight, and lots with my sweetheart-to-be. I thought, if I can dance, I can march.
Kiddo is married to a man. She was planning to hang with her best woman friend at Pride Day, and her best friend's husband and their daughters. This approach to a Pride celebration is not exactly in my copy of the Gay Agenda. We're supposed to haul non-gays kicking and screaming to the recruiting booth for their indoctrinations, aren't we? But Kiddo, the daughter of my late partner, honors me by calling me one of her moms, and seldom asks anything of me. I, in turn, never get to spend enough time with her. I decided to go.
As it turned out, there was no march. These days it seems that Pride can be an event rather than a jubilant parade or a defiant march. I hadn't been to a Pride Celebration since the 1980s. In San Francisco I was an observer, not a participant. That march was all about partying, with a phalanx of dykes on bikes and floats filled with barely-clothed, body-painted and feathered men. Back in New York, in the 1970s, we were angry. We chanted slogans to the tops of the canyons of tall buildings and rejoiced at the feeling of righteous validation that came with the tons of ticker tape tossed down on us.
So there I was at a state park, with one of my favorite people on earth, Kiddo, and a non-gay family I also hold dear, yet I was a stranger to every gay in sight. I introduced myself to representatives of Lavender Womyn, who didn't know my name from a hole in the wall. Usually at least one member of such a group will ask if I hadn't maybe written a book once upon a time. Not here. Kiddo and her friends were the ones who knew just about everyone. I accepted my new role and listened and shook hands and met more drag queens in one place than ever before in my life.
First, though, we were greeted by a little girl dressed in a white t-shirt, shorts and a huge grin. She'd been lost, the police called, and a small group of women and men were taking care of her. I was relieved that the police cars were not monitoring the behavior of the gay crowd. Nor did they have cause to be. Most of the guys could have been Elks or Lions or Odd Fellows at their annual picnics, if they have annual picnics. There was a large rhinestone crown being passed around, which coordinated not at all with the polo shirts and jeans that passed for drag that day.
This was a West Coast, laid-back celebration. There was a lot of karaoke on stage, a small, mixed gay chorus, and booths galore. Kiddo pointed out the booth of the local gay bar where she and hubby and their friends spend some of their evenings. I didn't ask how that came to be a favorite watering hole, but I saw the genuine affection they had for their gay friends and that it was returned. Kiddo chose her companions well.
There, Kiddo gestured, was the woman, a handsome butch, who tried to pick her up last week. And over there was a young man who was extraordinarily beautiful as a woman, she said. Her friends' youngest daughter, in her early teens, adored another of the queens and the two spent time with their arms around each other. We met all sorts of gay dogs, including Toby, a lively tan teacup poodle who rode in the basket of his adoring dyke owner's motorized cart. There was a big emphasis on family and plenty of unselfconscious kids were in sight, gay kids among them. No church groups were protesting the gay presence in the park or the exposure of young children to gay women and men.
As a matter of fact, churches were represented in the vendor booths: M.C.C., of course, and Quakers and others. There was a bank recruiting staff. Two local car dealerships were displaying their wares. T-shirts were for sale and rainbow paraphernalia, and the sno-cone booth had been thoroughly inspected by the health department. There would be no sno-cone sickened queers at this event.
Which was a quietly proud event, compared to Gay Pride days of yore. It really was about pride, not anger; family, not cruising; love and inclusion, not rejection of the dominant society. The lost little girl who greeted us had found safety in a family of gays and it looked, on this glorious summer day in this state capitol, like gay people had found some safety for ourselves.
Copyright 2007 Lee Lynch
Lee Lynch has been writing about lesbians since the 1960s when she was a frequent contributor to "The Ladder." Since then she has published thirteen books. The latest, Sweet Creek, from Bold Strokes Books. A 2007 recipient of the Alice B. Reader Award, she was named to the Saints & Sinners Literary Hall of Fame in 2006.