I can’t remember how old I was, maybe six or seven. I was standing in the living room beside my Mom when a boy only a little older than me walked past on the road. It was obvious he was crying.
“Why’s he crying Mommy?” I asked.
“He’s going to karate and he doesn’t want to go,” she replied.
“But why does he have to go if he doesn’t like it?”
My Mom thought for a few minutes, likely tailoring the story into something more suitable for my age. “His father thinks he’s too… sensitive… too girly and he’s trying to toughen him up.”
I thought of how sad he’d looked. “Can’t someone stop his Dad?”
“It’s not illegal to send your child to karate, even if he doesn’t like it. It’s not even against the law to make him walk there.”
I could tell by my Mom’s voice she didn’t like it. It was also obvious that there was nothing she or anyone else could do. It was also obvious that some adults did not like their children for who they were. Fit in or get hammered in.
The years passed and I was in high school. I was in a crowded hall when the group next to me caught my attention. Maybe because they were loud. Maybe because there was a teacher in the group. It was Monday and they were talking about what they’d done that weekend.
“I went downtown,” one said with a shit eating grin. A second and the teacher had also gone.
I loved going downtown too. I’d go down Queen Street to Bakka, a sci-fi/fantasy bookstore and I’d sometimes eat at The Old Spaghetti Factory. That wasn’t why they went though.
“There’s so many fags there, I didn’t have enough rocks!”
“I hit one and made him bleed!” The rest, including the teacher, made noises of approval, while I slid through the crowd and hurried away, feeling sick.
Time went on. I joined a choir and looked forward to our weekly rehearsals. One year we performed the song “Putting on the Ritz” and had a tap dancer perform in the middle. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him and couldn’t stop blushing either. He was really cute and a really good dancer. I mentioned the latter to the person beside me who looked at me with surprise.
“She’s a girl,” the choir member informed me. I looked closer and, sure enough, she was. But the interest didn’t go away. And, unlike the feeling of curiosity I felt when I was romantically attracted to a boy, this time all I felt was fear.
I was bullied at school and already knew how kids treat those they feel are different. And, of course, I couldn’t forget the guys blithely talking about throwing rocks at strangers for fun.
By the time I finished high school I was so far into the closet I’m surprised I didn’t come back out riding a lion. I married a man and was pregnant before our first anniversary. I’d worn my hair almost down to my waist for years but was finding it harder to keep it brushed and decent so I’d got a short cut in my 8th month. We went out for a walk one evening when a car drove by. The passenger yelled, “Fags!!!” out the open window. Anything else he said blurred into nonsense syllables while they sped away. I was terrified. Would they come back? Would they care that I was pregnant if they did. My ex wasn’t worried at all. I, however, knew how they treated those who were different.
It was last December and on our first date when I slid my hand into my girlfriend’s hand. We walked down a quiet path and I quietly breathed a sigh of relief when no one said anything. I knew that wasn’t the case all the time. Times have changed but by how much? Apparently enough to have a straight pride parade.
The parade is scheduled for this August in Boston and, to no one’s surprise, has links with the far-right and includes having Milo Yawnopoulos as the Grand Marshal. I’ve read a mixture of opinions regarding it but all I have is rage.
Pride started out as a protest against police brutality. It started with a brick thrown by a black trans sex worker, causing a riot that lasted for several days. The following year they started a parade and it’s continued ever since, spreading across the world. It was a parade of rage. Rage against the police officers who would pull them onto the street naked to shame them. Rage against the public who didn’t care. Rage against people who attacked them and mocked them… who refused to hire them or rent apartments to them. It wasn’t a party.
Now the Pride Parade is more of a party, a celebration of how far we’ve come. A celebration that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away.
But now there’s a straight backlash. They want to be in the LGBTQIA2S acronym, you know, because it isn’t quite long enough yet. They want their parade too. It’s not fair.
Do you know what’s not fair? What’s not fair is that child crying his way to karate, knowing his father only wanted him if he was someone else. Someone stronger… someone more straight. That child’s suicide attempt risk is so much higher than a straight child.
What’s not fair is all the people who had rocks thrown at them all because they dared to hold hands in a gay enclave. Or had slurs screamed at them.
What’s not fair is the eleven POC trans women who have been killed this year alone.
Or how about gay conversion therapy for youths, a treatment that has huge suicide rates and can cause PTSD.
Straight people want the party without the pain. They’ve never worried about holding hands or being attacked. They don’t have to worry about being misgendered and mocked by hospital staff after being assaulted. The people demanding their straight parade are like a spoiled child seeing a student get an award and demanding to know where their award is too, even though they didn’t put in any of the work.
No one’s stopping them for attending a pride parade, although I have a hunch they refuse out of a fear of having a pass made to them. They can wave rainbow flags and laugh and cheer with everyone else. Allies are more than welcome.
But they’re going to have their parade and a bunch of my friends are figuring it’s going to be the most boring parade ever, unless the far-right ignites a riot. And I’m just glad I’m nowhere near it.