When this little straight girl was asked to help out at last month’s Austin Pride Festival, I was honored and excited to do something positive for people — people who I have watched struggle unnecessarily in this world, some of whom I know and love dearly.
I had no idea what to expect. I pictured a wild and flamboyant gala where people could be themselves, let loose and celebrate the freedoms they fought to protect, and those they aspired to secure. I fantasized it would be like when I turned 21 and went out to celebrate my new freedom. I was ready for anything.
I know now why they have been given the name “gay.” At the festival I was in the presence of the happiest group of people, collectively glowing from joy, even without the glitter. There was no loud, ugly or boisterous behavior.
This event was not used as an excuse to act out, rather an opportunity to rejoice. The simple joy emanating from the festival grounds was almost tangible. I tried to steal as much of it as I could as I looked into the eyes of the people who spoke to me, and hoped that I would, at some point in my life, have a day just like theirs where I felt whole.
The folks who put this event together worked day and night in unbearable heat and nasty dust storms, but not once did I hear them complain. It was a labor of love. I have never met such a large group of polite, kind and soft-spoken people. Many covered in glitter, some in outrageous costumes, and all of them nice to me.
I honestly did have a smidgen of fear going into this weekend. The same kind that I have sometimes going into a synagogue during turbulent times. There is so much hate in the world. Much of it comes from ignorance. All of it is dangerous.
Surprisingly, I only witnessed two instances of hate during the Austin Pride weekend, both after the parade. The first was when my date was kind enough to carry my purse for me. He knows I have a bad back and is one of the most thoughtful gentlemen I know. A scary large man came up to us, angrily threw his hands in the air, called him ugly names and walked off. In his defense, from what I heard, he fell into the “ignorance” category.
The second incident occurred when two women exchanged words, then one of them threw a rose as hard as she could, at the other woman. In her defense, from what I heard, she deserved it.
There were a few times I cried this weekend. The beauty I witnessed was moving — mostly when straight, sometimes even authoritarian-type fathers brought their sons to my booth to make sure the family had Pride shirts to commemorate in solidarity the importance of this day.
One adorable kid wore a rainbow-colored bow tie and carried an umbrella to match. We complimented the young man on being smart enough to bring an umbrella to shade himself from the sun. His father joined the conversation by adding, “He wanted to bring his fedora, but we all agreed the umbrella matched better with his outfit.”
I can only hope I am as in-tune with my children as these parents were.
The other times I cried were when I saw churches at the parade and festival that were brave enough to publicly support their congregants and others who did not fit some of the translations of their Bible. They preached about a god who loves everyone equally, and what made me cry was that they meant it.
The Pride Festival must have been named for me too. I was so proud of my humans.
I was raised by professionals who grew up in the hippie generation. I was taught to love everyone equally. I taught my kids to be colorblind and to judge people only by whether or not they were jerks.
I still don’t understand why gay people want to get married, though, other than the whole equality, freedom and benefits thing. It was not so fun for me. I find it difficult to believe in a government that wants to prevent these lovely people from getting married, but did not once try to stop me from straight-marrying He Who Must Not Be Named. It just makes no sense.
We were planted on this planet all the same, and blossomed so delightfully different from one another. It takes a bit of manure to make us grow stronger, and we do. It takes a bit of time to learn to share the sun, and we will.
I truly wasn’t sure if a little straight girl like me would be accepted in this group of people whose common denominator did not include me. Only one person actually asked me if I was gay. I answered honestly, and with pride. “No, I am not, but don’t judge me. I was born this way.”
Rachelle Rudd Abelow is from San Antonio, where she has been a successful paralegal for the Law Offices of Tom Hall for 23 years, and an annoying mother to Julia, Samantha and Maya for many years, as well. She is the non-award winning author of “When I’m Sixty Four” which can be found at rachellethefirst.blogspot.com.
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