This post is by K.
This past June, most of the world celebrated pride month. In our city, the pride parade and celebration always happens in July. Pride is something special for many of us. It has gone pretty far off the path from its radical roots. Some question the co-opting of pride by corporations and the assimilation of LGBTQI people into the mainstream by participating in such events. Some have organized other subversive events for queer and trans* people who oppose the commercialization and commodification of pride.
First gay pride march in NYC, 1970
I certainly wonder what pride means in 2014, with ticketed entry and parade registration fees and a whole generation between Stonewall rioters and today’s glittered and rainbow-spackled parade. It is much more party and much less political. To some degree, this is a marker of success. As with many activist movements, radical dissent dies down once discrimination becomes more subtle. It’s easier to celebrate marriage equality than to deal with the real issues we still face. Health disparities, violence, homelessness, poverty, discrimination… Many would be surprised to know that the murder rate of LGBTQHI people is on the rise and 90% of LGBTQHI people murdered are people of color–not good material for a float.
I have lots of thoughts about pride. However, W and I still enjoy pride because it still brings us together with our larger community. There is still a feeling of comradery when hundreds of folks take to the streets, a feeling of liberation in walking through the city in nothing but your sparkly underwear. There is value in honoring the legacy of gay and queer and trans* rights activists, for those of us who know our history, or lived it. It is important to celebrate what we have–in other countries, being queer or trans* is illegal and people are arrested and worse for being out.
Growing up in a rural area, I never could have imagined something like pride. Many queer & trans* folks remember their first pride fondly. Or their first trip to the gay bar. There is a startling, overwhelming sense of familiarity and excitement the first time you step into a crowd of people with whom you share a deeply personal identity. It’s like coming home, except you didn’t know it was home until you got there. It’s why we call our communities our “family.”
As in, “Oh, her? Yeah, she’s family.” Or to a newly out person, “Welcome to the family!”
We create real queer families, too. In college, W and his former long-term partner were often referred to as “mom” and “dad” by younger queer friends. And they did “raise” many of those “kids,” counseled them through coming out, drove them to the gay bar, loaned them books and movies, listened to their breakup stories, gave fashion and drag tips. Queer families are kinship through love, not blood (something that makes sense to me as an adoptee). For many of us, our queer families kept us alive in our hardest times.
One of the things I miss most about being in college was that queer family was, literally, down the hall or across the quad. It was easy to find each other, if you wanted to be found. It is harder now, in our 30’s, to find and nurture queer fam relationships.
Queer family is at the core of gay and lesbian movements, historically, too. In the 60’s and 70’s, many gay and lesbian folks were abandoned by their bio/legal families when they came out. Or were not out to their bio/legal families at all. Folks flocked to San Francisco and NYC (and still do) to find queer family. Lesbian separatists created all-woman collectives that disrupted heteronormative family structures. During the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, gay men relied on their queer families when, quite literally, no one else was there to support them.
Today, though we have made huge strides in terms of social and cultural equity, there are many folks who are still left out. Within LGBTQI culture, white white-collar gay men have taken the lead, with white white-collar lesbian women right behind them, in terms of who gets the most representation and access to community. For people of color, for trans* people, for bi people, for poor queer & trans* people, and others who don’t fit the mainstream picture, there is a need to form queer families within the larger LGBTQI community. Queer family is ever-more important in a culture where we are being pushed to conform to a “safe” notion of what LGBT looks like.
As W and I embark on adding a kid to the mix, I think about what it means to look like a “traditional” family, in the most conservative context–a dad, a mom, a baby, two cars, and a mortgage. As it has been important to both Waffle and me to be openly queer in our relationship, it is important that our family is not “the new normal.” While some LGBTQI people want to be “normal,” I really do not. As I venture into the tricky world of parenting, I will need my queer family more than ever. It is the reason we started this blog. It has been a joy finding other queer parents and queer parents-to-be. It has also been amazing sharing this process with our current friends, including many who are childfree.
This year, at pride, I’ll be thinking about queer family, who has access to it and who does not, what it means. I’ll be thinking about my own queer family members who have nurtured me along the path to where I am today. I’ll be thinking about future-kid and our little queer family, the one they will be born into. And I’ll be thinking about the extended queer family I hope they will be exposed to and loved by, as we have been.