What I did for love (TA at the gay pride parade) December 9, 2007Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family, friends, issues.
Tags: atheism, discrimination, family, gay rights, LGBT, LGBT rights, pride march, religion
(Why yes, that post title is a reference to A Chorus Line. Man, I’m cheesy.)
It was the night before the parade, and I approached my mother in the kitchen to ask her again if I could attend the gay pride parade. She, again, refused.
“Please,” I whined, “my gay friends are counting on me to be there!”
After taking a while to think it over, she sighed, “Ask your father.”
So I did, and Dad was like, “It’s up to you,” and hey, a victory is still a victory, even if I didn’t get to use the “they’re being discriminated against, like meee!” speech I had prepared in my mind.
My parents have a certain way of showing their disapproval of my choices, and that’s by leaving me to fend for myself as much as possible. They pulled this little trick on me when I enrolled at Dream College; Mom went through all the red tape to procure an application form and even bargain for an extended deadline for me when it came to College That She Wanted for Me (also known as Smarty-Pants College), but when I insisted on applying for Dream College, they didn’t lift a finger to help. I had to take three-hour-long trips on public transportation (no walk in the park, especially not here) to and from the school for a number of days to complete my application. For the parade, I had to take the whole journey myself as well.
This trip was made significantly more difficult because of what I’d chosen to wear. I’d never been to a gay pride parade before, but I figured that what I wore to the parade made an important statement, so I gay-ed it up some, with a black mini-skirt and rainbow striped knee-high socks. It was a little discomforting to hear the catcalls and lewd remarks as I walked to the bus stop, as well as the odd stares from pedestrians, but hey, it’s for a good cause, isn’t it? Ah, the things I do for love.
I’d actually signed up as a volunteer with the organizers a week beforehand, so I got to be a marshal to the madness, which was really cool. People loved my outfit — some even stopped to take pictures of me! I’m always flattered to hear praise about my sartorial choices from gay men. I remember being at a high-end shoe shop once, where the gay manager approached me to tell me how much he loved my outfit. I happily recounted this to my mother later on.
“Yeah,” she snorted, “it’s no surprise that he liked your outfit — he’s a fag.”
Thanks a lot, Debbie Downer. I just brushed it off, because I love gay people, and my mother is a frumpy dresser, anyway.
At the pride march, I was also introduced to this adorable, model-esque twinkie, Justin*, through my friend Emmett* (see where I’m going with this?), and he was a blast to have around. It was from Justin that I heard this little gem, which sums up my situation perfectly:
“There is a huge difference between tolerance and acceptance.”
Yes, I know I’m really slow not to have thought of it sooner, but it still sparked an epiphany within me. This statement shows exactly what is wrong with my family’s and Fred‘s way of thinking. They believe that they’re not in the wrong because even though they look down on people like me (atheists) and people like them (LGBTs), they treat us like normal people. No, it’s not okay. Does paying for my tuition make up for excluding me from Christmas? Does befriending gays make up for thinking that they are mentally disabled?
We don’t want to be thought of as evil or reprehensible or impaired just because of what we believe in (or don’t) or whom we choose to love. We’re all still struggling for acceptance, within our families, our workplace, our community, our world, and it’s an uphill battle but we’ll fight for it anyway, because it’s worth it.
And that’s why marching in this big, fabulous parade meant so much to me.
The feeling I got marching alongside everyone down the streets was indescribable. We were truly a rainbow parade, bringing color into the otherwise dank and gray Pleasantville that was our town. Employees and passersby stood along the sidewalks to watch the festivities, amused and awed by the street performers, the motorbike-riding leather mommies, the drag queens, and the silly, stripes-clad straight girl, toting her pink polka-dot umbrella and monitoring the sidelines to make sure everything was in its right place. It was like being the mousy nerd at the cool kids’ table — I felt slightly out of place, but still totally psyched to be there. I can’t wait until next year’s parade.
I was a part of history, and I have you all to thank, especially those who expressed encouragement, like Hemant and Jen:
“It’s precisely people like TA, who think this way, who need to attend these events. The LGBT community needs the support of girls like her.”
“When you are talking to young women just out of college in thirty years, are you going to want to tell them that you did nothing for gay rights?”
Without your support, I probably would have wussed out at Mom’s first refusal, and I’d have subsequently missed out on this amazing event (which is probably the least selfish thing I’ve done this year, so yay me!). I made some great new friends, I looked fabulous, and in what little way I could, I helped the LGBT community fight the stigmas and discrimination they face on a daily basis. And, in my mission to be to LGBT people in my country what Tracy Turnblad was to black people in 1960′s America, I would gladly do it over and over again.
(By the way, why don’t atheists and secularists have pride marches? Or is there one that I’m just not aware of? If there was one, we should have a bright, happy theme color, like orange or neon green instead of black, to battle the “atheists are curmudgeonly elitists” stigma. We can be happy people, too!)
* not their real names, obviously.