Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Pride

We've been running a column series (for over two years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about LGBTQ+ pride, since it's currently Pride Month and there are a lot of books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or storylines. 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Melissa Amster:                                                                                                 
This past Sunday, I attended Pride Fest in DC. I hadn't been to a Pride event in such a long time. Probably not since I attended a Pride parade in Chicago in the early 2000s. If more cities did the parade on Sunday, it would be more of a possibility, but at least Pride Fest was an option this year and I didn't even know it was happening on Sundays in the past. (I still wish the parade would be on Sunday too though...) Anyway, my husband and I took two of our three kids (all are pro-LGBTQ+, but one is an introvert and doesn't like crowds). The two who attended had such a great time. They couldn't stop talking about it afterward. We met up with our cousins whom we hadn't seen in a few years due to the pandemic, so that was really nice too. 

If you combine the Renaissance Faire with Rocky Horror, that's what the experience felt like. I mean this all in a good way. I loved that everyone was there for the same reason and we were all on the side of pride! It was so much fun to see all the outfits everyone was wearing and people just felt free to be themselves and live it up. It was all so wonderful and I loved basking in the pure joy all around. Plus, they had really good hot buttered corn on the cob like you get at a carnival. 

While I loved being there with my family, it made me miss my two gay best friends and how we would hang out around Halsted Street in Chicago and go to the clubs or attend street fairs. We all attended the Pride parade together one year too. However, it also made me glad to see that the LGBTQ+ community is still going strong even with oppressive forces at play. I'm keeping this post short in order to share a few pictures from Sunday's event. 

Throwback to the Chicago Pride parade in 2001

Sara Steven:

Years ago, while living with my grandparents, I’d been tasked with walking over a mile to the city bus stop in order to catch a ride to my high school. I’d start my mornings in total darkness, a fun side effect of living in the great Pacific Northwest, never knowing whether I’d have to bring an umbrella with me or risk the potential for muddy shoes–so often, that was almost always the case. It was cold and dreary, and even when I’d begin to see the sun peek out from beyond the horizon, it was never enough.  

At some point, a young man joined me on my morning walks. I can’t remember how it started or when it happened. Zach lived in the duplex next to my street, and one fateful day he’d happened to leave his place around the same time I’d turned the corner, and that was that. 

At the time, I was a meager freshman who hadn’t made a whole lot of friends, the kind of kid who hadn’t really found her identity yet. I wore stained white Keds and jeans some jerk senior referred to as “highwaters” when he’d seen me standing in the lunch line the first week of school, and it really stuck with me. I didn’t know what it meant to be “cool,” but Zach–well, he was all-out cool.

He reminded me of Pauly Shore from the 90s. He wore bell bottoms and trainers, with his pant legs dragging along the watery banks of Skyline Rd., red fiery hair flowing effortlessly into the wind. He wore vests and chokers and he talked about the music he listened to, most of it Lynyrd Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, the kind of stuff I’d listen to on the classic rock stations. 

We bonded over our mutual need for the bus stop. Waking up before dawn, the walk of shame for two high schoolers who weren’t old enough to have their driver’s licenses yet. I don’t remember how old he was, but I always felt like he was so much older than me. He probably was. He made the mornings so much more bearable, and it was even better when I’d find him waiting at the same bus stop in the afternoons to take us back to our respective homes. How lucky was I to be in his presence twice in one day?

I don’t think we hung out at school. I’m sure our circles never touched, but when we’d see each other, it felt like two long-lost friends who hadn’t seen each other in years.

I don’t remember when he’d felt safe enough to confide in me that he was gay. It might have been at the start of our friendship, or towards the middle. Back in those days, there were a lot of preconceived notions of what that meant, and he vented to me about how trapped he felt, how there were many times he felt alone in his feelings.

There were two important lessons I’d absorbed and held onto from my friendship with Zach. The smaller lesson had been about relationships–we both felt that at our age, romantic relationships were like stepping stones of learning and growth that would eventually lead us to our people; lessons that would teach us what we wanted or didn’t want, what we needed or didn’t need, in order to find the “perfect person.” A moment of brilliant clarity for two kids who really had no clue what it meant to be in a relationship. 

But the other lesson, the big lesson, had been about the right to love whomever we choose to love. I didn’t come from the kind of household or background that supported LGBTQ+, terminology that was just beginning to become more known to me and to others at that time, in the early 90s. Zach opened my eyes to the disparities he faced, to the frustration he felt at not feeling as though he could be himself without persecution or judgment. Times have changed a lot since then, but it’s still there. That disparity. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it.

Zach moved away, and I remember feeling lost for a long time after that. I don’t think he realized how much I learned from him in the brief amount of time we spent together–the lessons in grace and love that have extended out into many other facets of my life. Sometimes when I listen to Fleetwood Mac, I think of him. Or when I see wayward teens hanging out at a bus depot, it reminds me of our time together. 

It sounds so simple in theory, but seriously–Love is Love. It really is as simple and beautiful as that. 

I know that June is Pride month, but Pride should be celebrated every day. It’s important. Out here in Arizona, the Phoenix Pride Festival will happen in October this year from the 15th-16th, and if you live in my neck of the woods, I hope you’re able to attend, too.  

Did you attend any Pride events this month? Tell us about your experience!

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1 comment:

Jess said...

I love this post! Come to Toronto - the main parade is always on a Sunday:)
I wasn't able to attend because of work, but at my son's school they had a flag raising ceremony and then a little march around the parade with homemade flags. I'm so proud of them:)