Hello from North Haven!
It’s Pride Month, a time to acknowledge and and celebrate the human rights struggles faced by LGBTQI+ communities worldwide, as well as have a little rainbow-colored fun. Here on the island, Pride doesn’t get its own parade – the closest one is in Belfast – so I’ve been finding little ways to bring some of the teaching and celebration of the season into my school and home.
I had the pleasure of bringing four of our high school students on a service learning trip last week, and after spending time in Portland and Lewiston volunteering for Cultivating Community, Preble Street Resource Center and Community Concepts, we spent a few hours at OUT Maine. OUT Maine is a relatively new organization, which has lately been able to expand its offerings. Not only do they function as a drop in safe space for LGBTQI+ youth in the midcoast area, but they offer educational programming and outreach for schools, communities and families. For some of my students, a lot of the information and terminology they shared about the gender and sexuality spectra was brand new and even uncomfortable, but when we were all on the floor with a rainbow of markers making posters for the table at Belfast Pride, the fun outweighed the discomfort.
Pride Month has asserted itself in my home as well, without much effort from me. Penrose, my three-year-old, often peeks over my shoulder as I scroll through Instagram (I know, I know, I should be mindful and present for my child at all times, but sometimes, well, Instagram happens). My Instagram is about 50% Star Trek and 50% drag queens, especially those from the best reality show that there is that isn’t the Great British Baking Show. Fashionista that Penrose is, she often wants to gaze adoringly at pictures of RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Katya and Adore Delano dressed in their finest drag. From there we watched Some Like it Hot, which has the bonus attraction of Marilyn Monroe playing a ukulele, and now we’ve been watching (age-appropriate) scenes from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and RuPaul music videos. Over and over and over again.
Penrose loves the exaggerated femininity of the queens, their astonishing makeup artistry and gorgeous outfits. We talk about who they are as people – yes, Katya is a man dressing as a woman, but Peppermint is a woman of trans experience dressing as a woman. This lets us have conversations about all the different ways someone can be a woman. If I wear jeans and a t-shirt, I’m a woman, and if Penrose wears a sparkly dress she’s a woman, because we identify ourselves as women.
But why is any of this important for a three-year-old? I don’t remember learning about LGBTQI+ issues until I was an adolescent, and then only because of the now absurd-seeming controversy over For Better or For Worse‘s gay character. And truthfully, we haven’t talked much about the fact that someone could be in a relationship with someone of the same gender, although we do have a statistically appropriate number of gay couples in the community. Pen has a friend of trans experience, but her friend’s gender identity is currently more important than his experience, and he socially transitioned when Pen was too young to know the difference.
My goal, and the reason I let her watch Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp lip sync to CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” approximately thirty times while I was taking a shower, is normalization. If it’s normal to her for a man to wear a powdered wig and represent the Sydney Opera House, and it’s normal to her to be a person of trans experience, then it’ll be that much easier for same-sex couples to be normal for her as well. And if something it normal, then it should enjoy equal rights and protections under the law, and she’ll feel empowered to stand up for her friends and family who are LGBTQI+, and if she identifies somewhere in that spectrum, I hope she’ll understand that I’ll always be her ally.
So, HAPPY PRIDE, everybody, however you’re choosing to acknowledge and celebrate it, and no matter how far you are from an actual Pride event. The LGBTQI+ community has a lot to be proud of, and a lot to celebrate, and I hope my daughter’s generation truly experiences the entire spectrum as something noteworthy, enriching, and altogether normal.