Pride month and its ensuing celebrations can often look a certain way through a young person’s lens. But Laura Leigh Abby’s perspective changed when she became a parent
When my wife, Sam, and I were in our twenties, June in New York City meant neon rainbow manicures, boozy pre-parade brunches with friends and very public displays of our queer affections. Pride month made us feel cool, slipping into the VIP tent at parties on the river and posing for selfies on Gay Street. Loud, proud and a little tipsy, we saw this as our time to embrace being different.
It’s not that we forgot what Pride really meant – the history of sacrifice and discrimination in the fight for equality – but we relished in our everyday freedom to casually walk hand-in-hand on the sidewalk and kiss on the corner. Pride can easily be mistaken for a time that exists exclusively for LGBT+ youths, a time for anything-goes summer hookups, late nights and varying degrees of nudity, but we always knew that someday we wanted a marriage and a family, and that when we grew past the drink tickets and DJ booths, Pride would still be there, commemorating a time to reflect on the history of being gay in America.
In June 2015, when same-sex marriage was legalised nationwide – nearly two years after our own wedding – Pride felt like a real, true celebration. On the verge of trying to start a family, Sam and I felt as if equality was a realistic dream. The following summer, we had moved north of New York City and I was pregnant. In the middle of June, we sat in the window of the only local bar with a rainbow flag, and I sipped a seltzer with lime as we joked that our party days were behind us. With a little human coming into our lives whose identity would be eternally linked to the history – both good and bad – that Pride represented, we expected it to take on a new meaning.
But after our son, Quinn, was born, our Pride celebrations became little more than another excuse to post a picture of our kid on Instagram. That first year we were on a family trip to Fire Island, appropriately enough, with my siblings and their kids. We had our own little Pride party on the back deck of our rental. Everyone was dressed in bright colours, arms covered in temporary tattoos, a rainbow flag clutched in Quinn’s chubby little hands. The adults jumped around, waving our hands in front of the kids as we tried to get them to smile for a group photo, a Pride pennant strung up behind them. We clinked glasses and played music and grilled burgers.
But something about a private celebration felt in conflict to what I wanted to teach Quinn. I was overthinking it, sure, and I so loved my family’s support, but I wanted Quinn’s Pride experience to be a public one. I wanted to have him out in the world, my beautiful baby a living message to LGBT+ youths that said: “Yes, this is possible. You can have a family. You deserve a family.” A proclamation to those who would discriminate against us: “He is beautiful. Our family is beautiful.” Quinn was only six months old. I would have to chill out with my activist vision.
The next year we were stressed with the purchase of a new house and busy packing to move. The most pride we could muster was a last-minute online T-shirt order. Exhausted, Sam and I argued as I swung the selfie stick around for the right angle, and Quinn wasn’t feeling celebratory, either. In the photo, I’m squinting and Sam’s holding Quinn on her shoulder, her mouth open wide in a scream meant to excite him. Quinn is looking somewhere off-camera, red-faced and crying. Our failed attempt at a smiling family selfie was proof that even with two mums, parenting can be a struggle.
I don’t want our Pride celebrations to be reduced to posts in matching T-shirts with clever hashtags. I want Pride to be a time to come together with people and families that look like ours – and people and families that don’t. Sam and I have always existed in a bubble that is, admittedly, composed primarily of people who are white and straight. One of our hopes in parenthood is to raise our son in an environment that values diversity. I want Quinn’s Pride experience to counter the everyday heteronormative life that exists outside of our home. I want to help him understand a little more every year why we celebrate Pride.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the birth of Pride celebrations worldwide, this year feels like our chance to start fresh, to make Pride a family affair – especially now that Quinn is a walking, talking toddler – and commemorate it as we do other major holidays. For a family like ours, queer and mixed faith, Pride is right up there with Christmas and Passover. It’s an expression of what we believe – equal rights for all – and a time to celebrate what makes our family special.
This year, Sam and I are taking Quinn to his first Pride parade, and if I’m being honest, there will still be rainbow manicures and cocktails. Only now, there will also be vanilla ice cream cones with rainbow sprinkles, and Instagram photos of a very sticky two-year-old.
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