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So I’ll share a little secret: When I first decided to take my 12-year-old nephew to this year’s Capital Pride Parade to ride in our Metro Weekly contingent, a small voice in my head asked, Do you think that’s a good idea?
I’m pretty sure the voice came from the remnants of my 20-year-old, college gay boy self who, back in the day, once openly opined that Pride parades would be much better if it weren’t for all the drag and leather queens freaking up the place, at which point he was promptly and vociferously educated by his elders until he got the point.
I do look back at my 20-year-old self with fondness and nostalgia, but he could be rather dense at times.
Anyway, I promptly ignored that remnant voice. Not only is it a relic of my own past, it’s a dated idea in the present. I know that for some minority of people, even LGBT ones, the idea persists that Pride is one long procession of dildos, drag queens, leather daddies and dykes on bikes. I know those last three are certainly there, as well they should be. I have yet to personally see a dildo at a Pride parade, though it’s typically a busy day so it’s possible I’ve missed one.
For the most part, in a culture filled with celebrity sex tapes and television series that use nudity to keep viewers watching during exposition scenes (”Hello, HBO!”), what potential breasts and butts my nephew might glimpse wouldn’t be anything he hadn’t already seen on basic cable and the Internet.
So he joined me for our contingent, along with my husband, making it my first somewhat-traditional-family day at a Pride parade. In the back of the truck surrounded by rainbow bunting, I taught him how to throw beads without causing eye injuries to the crowd (mostly successful) and to only throw one at a time so we wouldn’t run out (not so successful). It was an exhilarating and exhausting time. Just one little thing kept bugging me: the guy in front of us who jiggled through the entire route in a jockstrap.
As for my nephew’s reaction, at the start of the parade he just yelled, ”I can’t take the full moon!” and started acting out a werewolf transformation, because that’s what 12-year-old boys do. I, on the other hand, just got very annoyed.
This wasn’t my 20-year-old self clawing his way back from the past, it was my present-day 44-year-old self realizing he also has an inner helicopter parent. The urge to overprotect is a strong one, if unfamiliar to me. As I told some friends on Facebook when openly considering this development, ”It’s just weird because, you know, this is me we’re talking about. I’m usually about as pro bare bottom as they come. So to speak.”
And, frankly, I still am. Despite my momentary flirtation with prudery, I still believe that our culture’s body issues are regressive, harmful and in dire need of change (although I’m not going to be the one to take it all off in public because my personal body issues are an entirely other subject). The fact is, I spent the day with my family, surrounded in our section of the parade by PFLAG and SMYAL and Capital Queer Prom and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.
I know my nephew saw everything he needed to.