Pride Parade, 1995
The deluge falling all day on the D.C. Pride Parade doubles as a wet metaphor. Prigs sit inside, connect dots between emboldened sin and an uncaring god’s vindication. The washing away of swine. A great, unmerciful cleansing. Noah’s flood, writ miniature and specified.
Meanwhile, the queers—boa-laden, chained, laced in leather—kiss hard in the rain, in the street, in the open. Dance to Cher in eight-inch glass-bottomed platforms. Come out with their lips glossed as lurid as hotpants; they glow from inside, so bright their skin radiates Day-Glo. They weave through one another with their arms spread wide, shimmying a little, singing. In love and bold in numbers.
And among them, here is your mother: out of the rain, at a booth beneath an overhang, chatting with an unaccustomed excitement. Out just three years now but already captivated by a woman, the gauzy attraction of a new kind of life. Her hair’s hacked boy-short; styling gel gives it waves. She hands pamphlets to drag queens—safe-sex stuff, the delicate Oh of a condom stapled to the back.
She’s pinned a rainbow to her tank top. One on you, too, standing mute but beaming. White-blonde, eight years old. Everyone magnetized, bending at the waist to coo and raise a palm for high-fives.
All of this is so new—in the way everything is at eight, yes, but bigger. Louder. Echoing and slippery. More flash than a camera going off in an unlit room. Your t-shirt sticks to your tiny frame as water collects to bursting in the tent’s roof, then spills over the sides in great cascades. A man with two nipple rings and bike shorts dance-steps up, greets your mother, grabs your hand to jump in puddles in the street.
And maybe the rain is your own invention, its coming down a metaphor after all. Maybe, beyond memory, there was no parade. Growing up a lesbian’s son the actual celebration—knowing an unfamiliar love, the swollen heart of the underdog, the struggle for rights before right was anything more than a direction. A way to find home in the dark question mark of a new kind of neighborhood.