11/12/2013 07:52 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pride Marchers vs. the 'Christians'


Illustration by Leah Rubin-Cadrain (@leahaviva)

When I was 8, my moms and I attended a pride march, and I got my first taste of blatant homophobia.

We were marching with our rainbows and chanting, "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!"

From across a waist-high barricade, the "Christians" responded, "You're here, you're queer, you won't be here next year!"

So ominous. Where would we be next year? I imagined us, the whole throng of us, evaporated in a quiet mushroom cloud, like we'd never happened. They were holding signs covered in hellfire. The signs themselves seemed passive and fairly innocuous compared with the energized, shrill sound of their voices. They were so real and so close, and they hated us. Well, no, I suppose I should clarify: They loved us but hated our sins -- that is, our families.

I remember the experience as a movie I'd suddenly jumped into. In my normal life I was just a kid with two moms, but now I was a character, a heroine, and these shouting bigots, who looked like regular people if you just saw them on the street, were playing the enemy. I wasn't scared; my team was bigger, happier, and better-dressed. I was just surprised that hate was such a real and nearby thing. I had never seen adults behave like this before. I was familiar with kids who said homophobic things, and to them I'd patiently explain away their miseducation, and they always listened. But this crowd, with their posters and their sinister variation on our chant, was so beyond playground reeducation. I couldn't fix them.

To an 8-year-old girl raised on My Little Pony, the images of rainbows juxtaposed with images of fire represented such a simple good-vs.-evil paradigm. I was certain that we were in the right. I was holding my moms' hands. I was the viewer of a spectacle that I myself was, in part, creating.

The antipathy of the protesters felt like a big misunderstanding, like they'd just forgotten to pick up our voicemail: "Didn't you get my message? I said gay people are your equal." For other kids around the country raised by two moms, this type of homophobia must have been routine, but for me it was blessedly exotic: tourism in the land of oppression.

As we passed, I regarded them not exclusively as bad guys but as younger children who couldn't read yet, disempowered people in need of education. And that is exactly how these religious adults must have seen me, one of the few kids sprinkled throughout the big gay crowd, bedazzled in rainbow gems with the heat of hellfire nipping at her little heels. "Oh, if only that little girl knew Jesus like I do," they must have thought, "then she could be saved from the clutches of the evil gays."

To hear more from Emma about growing up and being a grownup with two moms, follow