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.