Yesterday I attended my first Pride. Two of my kids, one of my step-kids, and a girlfriend drove up to Pittsburgh, battling traffic in a triangle-shaped city with two major events happening at the same time and with me forgetting my wallet so I had no cash to help us through the day. But even with some minor set-backs at the beginning of the day (we all managed to find parking and my son has a job that primarily pays in cash so he could afford lunch for everyone), we had a really phenomenal time.
In the days leading up to Pride, I read a story about a Pulse victim whose father had refused to claim his son’s body. I thought about the massive LGBTQ homeless population. I thought about the mother who wrote about giving her child over to the Devil on his wedding day. I thought about Ruth Coker Burks and the hundreds of gay men who were abandoned by their families when they contracted AIDS.
My heart broke with the weight of pain and abandonment that so many LGBTQ people are forced to endure.
I had crocheted up nearly 200 hearts and with some help, had them all pinned onto a giant heart that said “Love is Love.” As we walked up and down the festival, we would approach groups of people and offer them a heart pin. I gave hugs, shared a little of my story, met some other parents there to support their LGBTQ kids, blinked back tears more than a few times. I was nervous that giving out these tokens might be seen as an act of condescension, but over and over, it was perceived as I had hoped – a little gift of love from me to them.
What was even more lovely was seeing how my kids reacted as I handed them out. It meant so much to me that my kids know without question that I support them and love them. That they don’t have to walk this path alone. That they have an advocate right in their own home.
A year ago today our country was rocked as the news of a shooting in a gay nightclub murdered 49 people and injured 58 more. My kids had made plans to attend Pride, and a part of me wanted to keep them home. Maybe the shooting would encourage more hate. Maybe it was part of a larger, more coordinated effort to murder LGBTQ people. Maybe I was sending my kids into danger.
But that’s what Pride is. It’s a reminder of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, when LGBTQ people revolted against a system that refused to allow them even the dignity of being themselves in bars. It’s a reminder that there is danger in being openly LGBTQ, even nearly 50 years later. It’s a reminder that when the community bands together, they have a strength that they don’t have individually.
That was what was beautiful about attending Pride yesterday. Seeing thousands of people who, despite the risks, were there to celebrate their lives. Not merely to celebrate being gay or trans or non-binary or queer, though that was part of it, but to celebrate being alive. To celebrate overcoming potential abandonment by their families, overcoming rejection from the Church, overcoming fear of violence and even death. Each person I met was brimming with that life, with that celebratory spirit.
The world can be hard and cruel. People who should love us will let us down. We may even lose our lives. But should learn from our LGBTQ friends – every day we’re alive is a day to be proud.
And every day one of our LGBTQ friends survive, we should be proud of them.