My daughter experienced her first Pride parade this weekend. We marched with my co-workers and the dedicated volunteers of Planned Parenthood in Columbus. I am a married gay man with two adopted black children. My daughter, the oldest at three, joined me, and my community, on a hot Saturday morning. We took the obligatory Facebook photos with the caption, “Let the liberal indoctrination begin.” I could feel the eye rolls of some of my more conservative family members. But for me, this was an important moment, not only for myself, but for helping to shape my daughter’s sense of community.
We live in rural Ohio. Our school district is wonderful, but is 97% white. We attempt to give our children a diverse experience, but it can be difficult. Wherever we go, we are the "other." Among our straight friends, we’re the gay ones. Among our gay friends, we’re the ones with kids. Among our friends with kids, we’re the gay dads with black kids.
So many well-intentioned community members talk about how someday my children will be so popular in school. I smile and say thank you. Internally, though, I’m wondering if they’ll be popular because they’re supposed to be great at sports? Or will they be loved because they have gay dads? Everyone knows that’s cool! Will they be popular because they are so dramatically outnumbered racially that they’ll become the token friend? Black kids with gay parents in a predominately white community are the "other" of the "other." Does that give them the ultimate “in?”
So, to Pride we went. Because it’s important that my daughter starts to see there is a beautiful and diverse community where she can thrive if our small village life becomes daunting. Her world may or may not be defined by Lilly Pulitzer, lacrosse, and local country club swim races. As a financially stable white gay man, to be honest, that’s my comfort zone. I’ve lost touch with Pride and my LGBT community. As a family, we’re in our own little routine. But I recognize that routine will have to expand to include situations that might make me uncomfortable to increase my children’s opportunities. So, we’ll start on the kiddie coaster and attend a parade.
The sights and sounds were as refreshing as ever. More inclusive then I remember, and the richer for it. On our morning walk, we saw a collective strength that reinvigorated my energy to engage and fight back against an oppressive administration. Ohio can be a wonderful place to live, but for many, it is a state that continuously tries to keep you down, instead of lifting you up. If what we saw walking in the parade was any indication, however, our community is strong. And the resistance is real.
On a shady grass-covered lawn stood a legion of women blowing horns more popular at soccer matches across Europe. They hailed our arrival, in the spirit of noble Valkyries heralding our welcome to Valhalla. Only these noble sirens were drowning out the hateful rhetoric of anti-gay men with megaphones. Their voices may have not been heard that day, but like so many in our community, they created a profound moment of dissent that echoed off the walls of our downtown.
A line of gorgeous men in gold speedos crossed out path carrying sound equipment to some unknown location. A young man, in the croppiest of crop tops, tipped his sunglasses and said in an everyday, matter-of-fact voice, “carry that equipment boys.” He said it. We were all thinking it. Some things at Pride never change.
And we’re the better because of it.
Young trans women stood in the blazing heat, waiting for the parade to launch. Their meticulous makeup melting in the sun. Their smiles strong. Maybe it was their first Pride parade, their moment to declare and introduce an authentic self to strangers and friends alike. When you’re younger, Pride is much more about “you.” As you get older, and are married with children, it becomes more about the progress of a larger community and what you can do to help those, who like you once were, are engrossed in the glam of gorgeous men and women.
As we walked the parade route, we were greeted with inspiring applause. Inspiring because as an employee of Planned Parenthood, it’s reassuring to know that people appreciate the care we offer. As a parent walking with a child, it was wonderful to let her experience so many different people, from women on motorcycles to men riding unicorns, and to relish in that acceptance. And inspiring in our current political climate, that our community and its allies can come together and still throw one hell of a party.
My daughter waved most of the parade, lifting the back of her hand, making circular motions in the air, Buckingham Palace style. Where’d she learned that? It’s a gay mystery.
To close out the morning, we sat in the shade and ate water ice. To her, nothing extraordinary. No pointing at people, no awkward avoidance, and a simple yearning to collect as many balloons as possible. Just another ordinary 3-year-old day. And while I wish she would stay this way forever, I know she’ll grow up. And it’s comforting to know my LGBT community remains strong, vibrant, and ready to stand with her, no matter what.
More from Andrew Kohn: