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Friday, October 18, 2019

Life Lessons at ATL PRIDE

My daughter & her friend at PRIDE '18, photo by CRK
PRIDE 2019 centered on the fleeting moments. Our search for a parking lot showed me the way to Atlanta's Redlight Cafe, a place I've long aspired to read poetry and enjoy burlesque. Rainbow capes pulled up over our heads, my children and I sloshed through a parking lot onto a trail and under a bridge. I turned around to see my son smiling as he took in the subtle beauty of the grey sky, fallen leaves, cool air and unexpected street art stretching across the back wall of the underpass. Our plans to march with Georgia Alliance for Social Justice thwarted by a combination of road construction, weather and limited funds for the Uber we'd need to reach the starting point--we watched from the sidelines and then followed the marchers into Piedmont Park. There, we wandered miles through rainbow colored stands and crowds of people un-apologetically being themselves, or at least celebrating other people's right to do so.

My son at PRIDE '18, photo by CRK
My daughter gleamed when a broad-chested, masked man in a lacy red jumpsuit pointed to her and shouted, "Yaaas! I love your wings!" She jumped to make her cape (the wings) billow in the cool wind and led us deeper into a maze where we enjoyed the cheerful spectacle of adults line dancing to rap music and where my son paused to watch ducks swimming across a pond. When a passing stranger reached toward my son as he was duck-watching, my daughter waved away the woman's hand and pulled her brother close. In her mind, it was a kidnapping narrowly averted. I thanked her. She made her cape billow again and said in the most matter-of-fact way possible: That's what heroes do. 

Meanwhile, we had time to discuss the colors of the various flags and to name the words represented by LGBTQ. My daughter was disappointed by the lack of an A. Like many 11-year-olds, she is presently a-sexual. Unlike many 11-year-olds, she actively identities as such. 

At least, I imagine this is the case for most 11-year-olds. When I was younger, we weren't supposed to speak about our sexuality. Living in the "Bible Belt" of the USA, this remains true for many of our homeschooling peers. However, for us, taking a secular approach means embracing what is culturally relevant and applying it to our own lives. Identifying one's place along the spectrum of gender and sexual identity is having a moment, and I've embraced my daughter's interest in it. My goal with this is mostly that she understand there are many ways to identify and that she know it is okay both for her choices to change with time and for them to remain as they are. 

My children at PRIDE '19
I've taught her to wait until adulthood to make any permanent changes but to keep her mind open to whatever thoughts and feelings come. All the great life stories seem to center on self-discovery, and PRIDE serves as a doorway to observing, questioning, discovering, understanding and celebrating some key aspects of oneself--whether one identities as LGBTQ or not. I love that Atlanta's PRIDE parade syncs with National Coming Out Day, making it feel applicable to all who have closeted aspects of themselves and are navigating the many feelings which come with liberation. 

In 2018, my children, their father, a family of friends and I marched alongside ACLU in the PRIDE parade. My son danced and twirled his way through Midtown handing out pamphlets urging citizens to go vote as he went. The sun shimmered wildly through an already clear October sky. My daughter remembers it as a foundation forming moment of her childhood.  This year, a group of teenagers passed us in the park. They were chanting and then giggling under their breath. My daughter pointed to them and said: See. That's me and my friends when we're just a little older, Mom. 

I know she's right. At 37, I can also see how important it is to have memories like the ones she's made and is preparing to make. Laughter, freedom and connection are hallmarks of a happy childhood. And, when events like PRIDE are central to those experiences, I consider that a major win. 

This story also appears within Secular & Sensational on Medium, where I encourage you to give it some "claps" and explore more adventures in secular homeschooling. Also, GAFSJ marchers made a powerful impact sharing their message of love. For their march story and info. about upcoming events, please check out the website https://www.gafsj.org.

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