Why Pride Month Holds Special Meaning for Me
Pride month has special meaning to me.
In the late 1980s, when I was around 10, my Mom and Dad divorced and my mom moved to California to be with her partner and future wife. Growing up in small-town New Hampshire, there were not a lot of openly gay people, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from her new circle of friends.
It turned out, they were very similar to the friends my mom had before she and my dad separated. Men and women. Single and coupled. Economically successful and economically struggling. The one notable difference, maybe the only notable difference, was that many of my mom’s new friends were gay. They were also out and proud despite having experienced struggles and obstacles on the path to being open about who they were. This was long before Ellen came out and long before Will & Grace were on network television.
Seeing my mom’s world opened my eyes to something: this country doesn’t always feel as free to some as it does to others.
As a person who grew up with many privileges, it was hard for me to understand how important an openly gay identity was to my mom and her friends. After all, I had never felt like I needed to hide who I was, had people judge me by the color of my skin or felt held back because of my gender. I was never held back or punished for being myself.
My mom’s experience taught me that not everyone has that freedom. As I grew older, I saw just how hard people have fought for the kind of basic freedoms that I have enjoyed my entire life. In 2004, I met Julie Goodridge, one of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s landmark freedom-to-marry decision and listened to her story of principle and persistence. In 2007, I watched with pride as Governor John Lynch signed the civil unions bill into law, making New Hampshire the first state to enact same-sex unions without a court order or the threat of one. Finally, in 2008 I was thrilled that my mom and her partner were able to get married and then shocked when they were ‘un-married’ by the State of California when it passed Proposition 8.
To see my mom and her partner revel in the their new found freedom to marry, watch that freedom be stripped from them, and then see it restored by the Supreme Court brought me great gratitude, tremendous frustration, and ultimately a sense of justice served. Perhaps more importantly, it reminded me just how critical our fundamental freedoms are, just how tenuous our access to them can be, and just how tenacious we must be in ensuring and securing their existence.
This Pride month, I am reminded of the courage my mom showed in deciding to be openly gay. I am reminded of how far we have come in allowing LGBTQIA people, including my mom, the freedom to live their lives openly. And, I am reminded of all that we must do and continue to do to ensure that all of us are able to, as that essential part of our State motto says, ‘Live Free.