We attended our first Denver Pride Parade this morning. As one of the largest Pride events in the country, it attracts around 325,000 people, with 100,000 attending this year’s parade. I work with the Boulder County chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) so we marched with the PFLAG groups. I’d been told PFLAG often gets some of the loudest appreciation during the mile long trek and that didn’t surprise me. Having lost my Dad for all intents and purposes when I came out, I have a deep appreciation and awe for parents who not only accept their children but then educate and advocate on their behalf. I thought it might be a little odd to be surrounded by other people’s supportive parents on this particular day but I pushed that aside because I wanted us to participate. And boy, am I ever grateful we did.
Upon arriving, the Divine Miss M looked through the signs available to choose from and was thrilled to find this one:
There was also a couple in our group who have been long time members of PFLAG but hadn’t marched in a Pride Parade before this year. Judging from the reaction she received, I’m guessing this won’t be her last. While she held this sign:
so many people, especially young adults, came out of the crowd to give her hugs, high-fives, tell her she is awesome (which she is), give her beads and leis. Her husband was proudly carrying one end of the PFLAG banner at the front of our group, leading the way. She was a little surprised by the crowd’s reaction but I wasn’t.
All along the route of thousands, there were innumerable cheers and shouts of “Thank you, PFLAG” and “Happy Father’s Day!” It was such a marvelous experience. It’s hard to quantify what an organization like PFLAG must mean to people whose family have rejected them, or maybe just tolerate them. There I was, on Father’s Day, occasionally thinking about the phone call I don’t make anymore and the card I no longer send. Though I hadn’t mentioned it, in speaking with another long time member and activist whose son is gay, she said there is rarely a year someone, often with tears in their eyes, doesn’t tell some member of their group, “Oh, I wish you were my parent.” She shrugged and said, “All you can do is hug them. Sometimes, there is a lot of pain that goes with this pride.” That statement struck me as oddly profound. Yes, yes, there is.
For that moment, however, there was happiness and cheers and we were celebrating the acceptance of family. I held Jo’s hand and we walked down the parade together, something we could never have done a year ago.
A couple of times, kids around the same age as the Divine came out of the crowd and onto the street to high-five her about her sign. I don’t even know how many people yelled to her about it and how much they liked it. She smiled and waved and I could see in her face and her stature how much it all meant to her. At the end, a reporter from the Denver Post asked her what she liked about the parade. She first responded, with a twelve-year-old girl air, “I liked the happy atmosphere and the rainbows everywhere.” But then he asked her if she liked anything else, and with words and conviction that far surpassed her years, she said, “I like letting everyone know that my family is just like everyone else’s and they deserve the same rights as everyone else’s.”
I was speechless and had to look away quickly to blink away my tears. There is a lot of pain that goes with this pride. But sometimes, there is just pride.
The Divine Miss M is a Harry Potter aficionado. She was most impressed with a sign today that said, “Give Dumbledore his rights!” She’s already planned that next year her sign will say, “PFLAG supports Dumbledore!” Our little activist, with her own personal flair.
It was a little bittersweet today but I got a chance to tell a few great Dads, “Happy Father’s Day,” waved to a lot of good people and kids and celebrated my own little family. In the end, that’s what it’s all about and I’m so, so glad Pride was today.