Pride, Sex, Choice and Raising Girls

29 Jun

On Pride Sunday, I watched people emerge from the underground train carrying rainbow flags and signs.  I pointed them out to my daughter, telling her they had come from a parade in Chicago for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  “Why didn’t we go?” she wanted to know.  I told her I was tired.  I couldn’t make it work.  I told her we could think about going next year.  She was mad.  I couldn’t blame her.  I was mad, too, although I still don’t quite know why.

Last year, staying home was the right choice. This year, it was not.

For Christmas, we plan for weeks and months, buying plane tickets and wrapping paper as early as summer or spring.  We determine budgets and menus, houseguests and sleeping arrangements, and which days we’ll take off work.

For twenty years, Pride Sunday felt as festive to me – brunches and cakes and coolers and floats and costumes and fliers, groups of friends assembling safe sex kits to distribute along the route – but since becoming a mom, I’ve let it slide.  We have one queer holiday, and I’ve let it go.  I’ve prioritized family vacations, summer camp, and swim dates over Pride.

No more.  My daughter called me out, and she was right.

I made a pact with another queer mom friend last night: Dyke March next year – female energy, dykes and bikes, handmade signs and strollers, drums.

I’m old enough to remember the very first one.  I was there.

“Can I watch?” a straight friend of my lesbian colleague asked.  “It isn’t that kind of march,” she replied.  “It’s not like the Pride Parade.  You don’t really watch.  It’s more like… you ARE the parade.  And at the end of it, you sit on the grass and have a picnic.”  Just my speed.

I brought my little girl to the Pride Parade when she was three.  She giggled at grown boys blowing bubbles from one of the floats, and by the time leather chaps strode by, she was fast asleep in her stroller.  She’s more sophisticated now; nothing escapes her eye.

Saturday, during the Dyke March, we had a block sale.  My daughter made $78.

Sunday, we didn’t go to the Pride Parade because I didn’t want to explain dildos or g-strings or all that bare skin.  Not to my daughter.  Not by myself.  Not yet.

I want my daughter to grow into a loving, sex-positive woman, but right now, she’s eight years old.  Planned Parenthood offers great advice about how to say what to your kids and when, but I’m still sorting it out.

Writing often helps, like this on a page, but it’s not linear. My thoughts don’t all lead in the same direction.

I applaud the open sexuality of the Parade.  I love it, always have, wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s all about freedom and I love freedom.  The Pride Parade showed me as a young gay person how it felt to live openly in love.

My daughter and I have been reading It’s So Amazing for two years, bits at a time. It’s the most gay- and adoption-affirmative book about reproduction I’ve seen aimed at kids her age.  She understands the journey of sperm, the fertilization of eggs, and not long ago, I watched it slowly dawn on her just exactly how the sperm and egg meet.  How the anatomies of men and women fit together.  It was shocking.  For both of us.  For very different reasons.

After a moment, I assured her that “fitting together” was an adult choice she wouldn’t need to make for a long, long time.  As I told her this, I prayed – as I spoke, I actually prayed (I rarely do) – that my words would make it so.  I prayed no one would steal that decision from her, and she would make that choice only when she was ready.  (In her late twenties maybe.)

Because at a certain point, our daughters become citizens of the world.  They take their toys and their opinions and they go play next door.  Down the block, across the street, across town.  And nothing we can do or say will change their choices then.  Nothing we can do or say will protect them either.  Not then.

But for now, at eight years old, she understands each person’s choice is their own – who they love, what they wear, how they behave.  Even when she’d rather blame her poor choices on someone else, she understands.  She also understands that “sex” is not a word you sing or say at her age; the privilege of using that word comes later.

She’s ready when I am.  I guess that’s the bottom line.

Next year, we’ll avoid making two long road trips in the days leading up to Pride.  We’ll bake a cake, blow some bubbles, march tall, proud and happy, in celebration of our family, our community. Then we’ll throw ourselves on the grass for a picnic.

Wanna come?


11 Responses to “Pride, Sex, Choice and Raising Girls”

  1. Cindy June 29, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    I’m making my rainbow cake and joining you!! Pride has been a holiday we NEVER miss – it’s better than xmas, bdays, new years, and everything in between. I’m still recovering from this year, so hopefully I’ll be ready to party with your family next year 🙂

    • rrp69 June 29, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Dyke March? Not sure if we’ll be ready yet for the Parade! It’s all a work in progress…

  2. deborahy2k June 29, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    I used to love sweating it out with my friends on the steamy streets of New York in my 20s, but now – 20 years later with 2 kids, well… Luckily we live in a town that hosts its own family-friendly Pride Fest that is less about floats and more about bounce houses and face painting. Still, I miss NY Pride. Hopefully, we’ll get there one year. Until then, I’ll look forward to living Chicago Pride through your family’s eyes!

    • rrp69 June 29, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      I’m totally in for the bouncy house and face paints! Sign me up! MUST seek out something like that in Chi-town next year, too. Thanks for reading, and for responding, too. Happy Pride 🙂 (We DO get to celebrate for all of June, right?)

      • deborahy2k June 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

        I really enjoy reading your blog though clearly I’m not very good at commenting. FYI, a couple of local moms (1 straight & 1 gay) started our Family Pride Fest here last year. If you or anyone you know has a flair for organizing, it’s a worthy event appropriate for all ages. Once they got the word out, all the local vendors and non-profits and restaurants wanted to be a part of it. If it doesn’t exist already, I hope it will soon. Happy Pride!!

      • rrp69 July 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

        Seriously? LOVE your comments! And you’ve got me thinking: What about a low-key “hey wouldn’t it be fun if…” invitation to a picnic following the Dyke March next year? No formal event, but like a picnic “happening” (“Flash Food”?) to encourage families to march and share hummus afterwards. Your comments have a handful of us chatting already… or Facebooking… or whatever. I’m happy to e-meet you, Deborah.

      • deborahy2k July 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

        Very happy to connect you to my friends who started it all here. I’m sure they could provide some helpful tips. Email me if you’d like an introduction.

  3. Christina July 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    YES! I would love to join your family next year. I went back and forth in my mind about taking Merissa this year. At first I had decided not to go, then as the day got closer I had second thoughts. The night before I was thinking maybe we should go. But then I hadn’t planned to go with anyone and I didn’t want to go alone. I probably had some of the same thoughts as you. I took her when she was baby, she of course doesn’t remember. Glad I’m not the only one who had internal conflicts ;-). If your invitation is still open next year Merissa will march with you at the Dyke march and we might even consider taking off our tops (well at least Merissa will I know that once she sees everyone else half naked I won’t be able to keep her clothes on).

    Blessed Be,

    • rrp69 July 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      You so totally and completely rock, Christina! Who knew what sort of feelings this post would stir up?? I’ve had amazing response, and am soooooo relieved to hear how many others have similar internal conflicts. Man. Yes, the invitation is absolutely open. See my note to Deborah here below… a few local moms with kids in the 7-9 range have been chatting with me, too. So let’s make it happen. Love to you and your family.

  4. Ur mom July 11, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    hey, mz rrp69,
    pamcatq here. in her late twenties, huh. we’ll watch that number go up as the years fly by, as it gets further from our control!! i know, that’s a bad word. i like the words you used in this blog, what were they … nudge, float, …
    luv ya,kid!

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