Pride in and for My Town

The first Saturday in May in Northampton, Massachusetts is Pride. We don't even necessarily say something longer like the Pride March. It's Pride. Pride's certainly what I felt today, in the middle of a big crowd (estimates by the organizers were 10,000 people) marching for a kind of justice often not mentioned, that being equality and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Sexuality and gender identity can be, for some, delicate subjects, ones about which some people may prefer silence. Silence, as we witnessed just weeks ago when an eleven year-old boy in Springfield killed himself because he was made so distraught by gay taunts he saw no other solution, silence as stigma about AIDS ravaged communities, silence isn't golden; silence can be deadly or deadening.

It wasn't silent in Northampton today. From the motorcycles' revving (dykes on bikes) to the raging grannies' songs to cheers of "We're here, we're queer, get used to it," the sounds that filled the air were celebratory.

I remember the first Pride march in 1982. The crowd was considerably smaller and the climate was considerably colder with what seemed like as many or more protesters as marchers. I remember feeling like we needed to huddle in Pulaski Park–for safety. Back then, I felt as if I'd been part of a radical protest (I guess I had been) and I remember wondering whether I was welcome to participate if I wasn't gay. Times have changed. Today, I marched with my husband and children along with everyone from church groups and high school groups and local politicians and business groups. Those celebrating Pride were GLBT, heterosexual and too young to declare. In 1982, there weren't many babies at Pride. Not so in 2009.

I remembered when Family Diversity Projects' Love Makes a Family photo exhibit presented images so many people had never seen. The idea that love makes a family was, to so many, radical. For my children, two moms isn't really different than mom and dad; families are families. Lucien, nearly eleven, was recently sharing the menu for his (far, far-off) wedding reception and added, "And you know, some dish my husband or wife would want, too." The flexibility my kids take for granted is, for me, the real Pride. I am certain none of my children appreciate how unique a place they live. Today, as I looked at all those high school students, some from places near to Northampton but quite likely not taking such flexible thinking for granted, I felt awed by how far-reaching events like Northampton's Pride March go. It's not one parade, but all that is entailed by a movement that has grown and matured overmore than two and a half decades to make the world–at least parts of it–better for all. When Mass Mutual or Baystate Health come to Pride bearing banners, the closet is smaller than it was, that's for sure.

Of course, over that time, I've gone from first year college student to the middle generation, marching with my family (including my mother-in-law). I'm glad that marching is less radical than it once was, not because I'm yearning to be mainstream all the time (I'm not). For this day, though, participating in a civic event rather than a fringe one fills me with PRIDE.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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