It was a few days after the election. I was still in shock, filled with anger and fear. I wanted to get out, to run away, to change reality, so I wouldn’t need to be so scared for so many people I loved. I was in the car with all three of my sons, headed on some mindless errand, when my oldest, now a strapping 12 years old, pointed up at the direction indicator on my car.
“We’re going north,” he announced. “Canada is north.”
“Yep. Should we just keep driving?” I asked, only partially kidding.
He looked at me seriously for a moment, then shook his head.
“No,” he said firmly. “Then who would fight here?”
And there is nothing like being put in your place by a middle schooler.
My children were very affected by the election results. This was personal to them. My 10 year old started confronting every adult he encountered and asking “Who did you vote for?” If they did not immediately respond “Hillary Clinton,” he then asked them why they hated his brother and his friends who are gay, and his uncle and cousins who are black, and his teachers who are immigrants? Why did they hate everyone he loved?
The election was real to them ― just as real as it was to me. In truth, they have handled it a lot better than I have. They have been able to move on, and shake the dark cloud of those electoral college results. I haven’t.
I’ve had a hard time writing since the election. For nearly six years people have told me how the story of my son, who came out as gay at 7 years old, and of our family has given them hope. But after last November, I no longer felt like I had any hope to give. Any words of comfort and light that I tried to write felt false, like a pitiful attempt to deny reality. Things were not ok. And I couldn’t pretend they were.
I got fed up with myself pretty quickly. Why couldn’t I find something to grasp onto? Just a little something to tell that this would not last forever, that things could and would get better.
And I finally found it. At the Pride parade.
Pride has always been an important family event for us, and we go every year, but this year it was even more so, because my brother and his family were joining us.
Earlier this year my brother and his wife had opened their bedroom closet to find my oldest niece wearing a rainbow squid hat and holding a sign that said “Lesbi honest, I like girls.” Later in the year, her younger sister, with far less fanfare, came out as pansexual. For the older’s high school graduation several months later, I gifted her with a t-shirt that said “Liberals for Gay Space Socialism.”
My brother, upon seeing and coveting the shirt, announced he need one in each of the Pride colors. He turned to me and said, “Coming out is different in our family.” Yes, indeed it is.
But back to Pride... My nieces marched with the LGBTQ band at the very start of the parade, and joined us after they had completed. I sat back in the shade (I wilt in heat and can get a sunburn inside a house if I sit too near a closed window) and watched my family ― chosen and biological alike.
My oldest son, too cool to collect beads these days, but waving to all the crowd and calling out the names of the people he recognizes.
My middle son, playing the part of king of all beads this year, and he added arm bands as well.
My youngest son, as kinetic as always, waving his rainbow flag where ever he goes.
My younger niece, in a rainbow propellor beanie, diving for the tshirts thrown into the crowd.
My older niece, her face so beautiful and bright as she watches the parade.
My brother, so happy to be there to support his girls.
My sister-in-law, proudly sporting a “Mama Bear” shirt with a black cartoon bear standing protectively over her rainbow colored cub.
My husband, tall enough to catch the beads flying over everyone else’s heads, and telling the kids to drink water.
My friends, our chosen family, helping the kids collect beads, trinkets, and candy, and periodically reminding them to run back to me to get another layer of sunblock.
As I watched them, it started to flicker, the tiniest little ember of hope. This was my family. They were all so happy and filled with joy to be at Pride, to be together. Twenty, even ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been a reality. Yet here I was, looking at the people I love most in the world, and watching them celebrate the incredible people they are. Suddenly, my eyes were filled with tears, and that ember sparked into a flame, because here was hope, here was the future.
And then came the gratitude, because I was so lucky that the future was now, right in front of me. I was grateful for each and every person who came out to the parade that day for creating such a wonderful setting. So many people that the streets were overwhelmed. Here in the midwest, in a red state, we had not stopped fighting. We had not hidden ourselves away. We were out, we were proud, and we were not going anywhere.
After the parade was over, and all our stuff had been packed up, we lined the kiddos all along the now empty route for a picture. Gay, lesbian, pansexual, and currently unidentified, they stood together, making faces at their parents. All family―in more ways than one. And each one an entire universe of reasons to hope.