Saturday is PRIDE in Columbus. My girlfriend is in charge of Pride for her college and we will walk together with our three kids. This is new for me. My first Pride parade was only three years ago and I watched quietly from the sidelines beside a woman I had a complicated relationship with. I was not fully out, so I was just a spectator. Last year a friend insisted I not go alone, but with her large cadre of gay friends. They were kind, open, and friendly, but I was still more of a spectator than a participant. This year is the first time I will walk with the person I love and my daughters. I will not merely participate - I will BE. I will be all of me. All of my pieces finally in place and walking with the hope that my children will continue to be whomever they were born as and whomever they chose to be.
I am incredibly lucky. My coming out was essentially easy. I was not a teen living in fear. I was not bullied or afraid of being thrown out of my family. I did not have to fear loss of my job, my home or my loved ones. Coming out after 40 is received with more of a shrug and a “huh, OK.” That’s not to say that there weren’t surprises. My ex-husband worried that people would think it was why we got divorced. My mother wanted to know why I always choose “the hardest path” and some friends questioned if I was “doing what was best for my kids.” I was accused of being a rebel and selfish. Those moments stung, but I had the advantage of being at a place in my life where I knew and believed too much in myself to be discouraged by those voices.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t loss. There was – great, great loss. I lost two of the most important people in the world to me. My confusion, my discovery, my need to figure it out in my own time and on my own path caused each of them great hurt. She ghosted me, which I thought was something you only read about in bad online forums. As for him, I made the mistake in believing the right love means you never leave and was heartbroken when he did. To his credit, he tried to remain in my life, but it became too hard for him. He had moved on, quickly replacing me, yet unable to stay in touch as I eventually moved too. I had wounded them. My tornado came with the expected destruction and in the after-calm, I was alone.
There has been incredible growth as well. I am so comfortable in this skin of mine. This finally, 100% “all-of-me" skin I now wear. I have never so much as hesitated to be OUT with my girlfriend and that has affected my kids - IN THE BEST WAYS POSSIBLE! Not only do they adore my girlfriend, they regularly comment that they love our relationship, how we are together in the world. They are proud of us and send their “questioning” friends our way for advice (goodness help us). All three of our kids are so blessedly unaware of the prejudice we would have faced even 10 years ago. To them we are boringly normal. And honestly, that’s the crazy part about this life of mine – I feel normal too. This is just who I am. It’s just who we are.
That is until I DARE pay attention to the news. Lesbian couples kicked out of Ubers, Trans murder rates through the damn roof, the Supremes and the fucking cakes, hardware stores with signs hearkening back to separated water fountains, states seeking to disallow gay adoption and Chick-fil-A. I can’t even.
So Saturday we will walk in PRIDE, and I will embrace all of the good, bad, and ugly that comes. I will no longer be a spectator too afraid to own my whole truth. I will no longer be just an ally. I will no longer fall short of using my voice. I will no longer stand while pieces of who I am walk by.
I will walk. I will embrace. I will be all of me.