I have a precious few moments in what promises to be the busiest week of my year as I prepare to go on a 16 day vacation with my son. However, I could not let our presence at one of the most historic events in transgender history go unwritten. Thus, the story of our day at New England’s very first Transgender Pride Parade.
Saturday morning 9 a.m.
Sue (soon to be Stephen) picks us up in her dad’s car. She’s going to Don’s therapist and is identifying as trans but using female pronouns until she gets further along in the process. I honestly believe she’s open enough to let me reveal that she won’t start T until she has top surgery since she refuses to walk around with fur covered breasts a la early Neanderthal in The Epic of Man. As an aside, Don and Sue were part of an inseparable group of friends in the mid to late 80’s. The days of big hair bands and Don’s obsession with Joan Jett (which actually hasn’t waned all that much). Long story short, they lost touch over time until one day, not so long ago, when Don was waiting in Diane Ellaborne’s vestibule and out comes…Sue! Whoa. That day they drew moustaches on themselves in front of a mirror suddenly took on a whole new meaning. Anyway, she’s fabulous and we love her and are excited about her journey.
Digressing as usual. So, we’re off to NoHo (Northampton, Ma AKA Land of the Lesbians) for the first Transgender Pride. I spend the better part of the trip being regaled by stories of their mispent youth. Similar stories to my own but with a different cast of characters. It’s an enjoyable hour and a half. When we arrive in Northampton we immediately spot a large bunch of revelers carrying pink, blue, and purple balloons. We have no idea where the rally is being held and need to find parking. Sue tells Don to ask them where we should go. He won’t. I’ll talk to anyone (ad nauseum) so i roll down the window and basically hear “turn around, take a right and bear left.” Somehow, we find a parking lot. A ticket comes into play later as we were so intent on getting a spot that we missed the part about paying for it up front.
We head into the…er…fray? Where is everyone? There is a large parking lot with a tented stage and speakers at one end, three port-o-potties on the other, and a whole lotta nothing in between. Tables are set up with flimsy purple or lilac tablecloths flying off into the breeze. Each has a sign that signifies someone means to be there, but the whole place looks for all the world like a large, lame yard sale. I had intended to volunteer for MTPC (that’s Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition), so I veered off in search of their table and finally spied Gunner frantically handing out signs on sticks and looking a tad frazzled. I offer my help and he says “great, here’s a sign”, “oh no…I’m not marching…is there anything else I can do?” Now I’m sitting at a table while everyone else has disappeared down Main Street to join the start of the parade. Damn, it’s hot and I have no clue what I’m doing. I know I’m gathering support for House Bill 1722, the anti-hate crimes act against transgender individuals but are we mailing the postcards for these folks? Do they get junk mail if they sign up? Do they have to mail their own voter registration cards? Oh terrific, the sign says T-shirts: $15. Where the hell are the t-shirts? I have no change. Damn, it’s fucking hot out here. I send Don and Sue off to watch the parade and sweat it out.
Noon or thereabouts. I’m gathering a handful of signatures as everyone is either marching in or watching the parade. I see a woman and her young daughter at the table next to me. The child looks to be about five years old. She is grabbing candy from all the tables. I have Starburst and offer her some when they come over. The mother eagerly signs my petition. I mention that if my son were here he’d be flying from all the candy. She says “I’m surprised he hasn’t gone into sugar shock by now” nodding to the little girl (wait…little girl?) next to her. I look again. Light brown bangs tucked into a black t-shirt worn over her head just the way I used to wear a towel to pretend I had hair as long as Malibu Barbie’s. A Disney Princess t-shirt. Denim skirt. Those plastic clogs with holes in them. He. He. Him.
He started dressing this way at age two. Last year he told his mother he was a girl. She fears for his safety. She brought him here to be himself among others like him. She’s a little girl trapped in a little boy’s body with a wonderful mother who struggles to see the positive in a life that will still be fraught with teasing, taunting, self-doubt. My whole notion of waiting until you are an adult to transition is tossed out the window. She knows. This child knows she is not a boy. This child has a mother who loves her and understands her. This child is a girl. I have tears in my eyes when they walk away. She’s so happy. I want her to stay that way.
The rest of the day seems almost anticlimactic in the wake of such a momentous event. But by 12:30 the first of the marchers make their way into our growing population of vendors and political activists. They are jubilant, shouting, laughing. Shirts are coming off and I ache for Don as I see the top surgery scars worn so proudly by men who, just last year, were probably binding in the sweltering heat. We know the names of the surgeries they’ve had just by the healing of their stitches. I think, six months, just give us six months to get it together. Please God, just let it be six months. I want Don to be shirtless this time next year.
There is an amazing array of individuals here. All walks of life celebrating something so foreign to most people. It isn’t enough to have come out as gay/queer/lesbian. To come out as someone who is loud and proud about changing the very makeup of one’s biological form is a feat of tremendous bravery. I’m so proud of each and every one of these people. From the walrus-moustached man in the skirt and heels to the very proper older transwomen in their crocheted sweaters and matching hats and bags to the young couples in various stages of transition/sexuality/sensuality to my own companions…my boyfriend (HHB – Hopeful Husband to Be) who stalwartly bears the female pronouns his family can’t quite eschew even as his hairline changes, his voice deepens, and his chest broadens…to Sue. Just beginning to explore the man she always knew she was meant to be.
It is diversity in it’s rawest. It is new and exciting and…small. We’re a tiny drop in the bucket of transgender warriors. Some carry spears. I carry words. We look towards next year and the thought of a larger space, a longer parade, media coverage, and no empty tables.
Oh, yes…and a six year old girl who comes with her mother to be who she is around people just.like.her.