Baltimore Pride 2018…

One thing I found challenging when my kids were young was leaving a place when they were having fun.  Every time it was, “Can we have 5 more minutes?  Pllleeeaaassseee?”  My husband and I eventually wised up and gave them the 5 minute warning before we were ready to go.  Surprisingly it worked (smile).

That’s how I felt on Saturday at the Baltimore Pride Parade.

As I mentioned in my last post, I just got back from vacation last weekend.  Although I was sad to see my vacation end, I was super excited that Pride was the following weekend.  I had been looking forward to it all year.  I have to say it’s one of my favorite days of the year.

We had a lot of new PFLAG parents join us this year for the parade.  It’s like watching your child experience something for the first time.  It reminded me of what my first parade was like and how emotional I got when the crowd cheered for the parents.  It’s also heart warming to see the support they are giving their children.  I’m not sure if they realize yet how important this is to their child and how much their kids appreciate their support.

But just like last year, the favorite part for me was giving out mom hugs.  It can be a little chaotic.  We had a group with drums with us again this year which makes it hard to hear (but really fun to march to!).  Some people just want to show appreciation for being willing to give hugs (not everyone is a hugger – smile).  So as I’m going along I try to discern who is asking for hugs.

Some people make it really obvious because they open their arms wide.
Some run up to me.
Some are shy about it.
Some call me mom.
Some ask for a hug just for fun.

Then there are the hugs where you can tell the person doesn’t want to let go.

Even though I’m moving along in the parade, the hugs are full embraces.  In some of those embraces, the person thanks me.  In some of those embraces, they tell me that appreciate my willingness to hug them.  In some of those embraces, since they are of all ages, the person will tell me that their mom has died and it’s been a long time since they had a mom hug.  And in some of those embraces the person will tell me that their mom doesn’t accept them.  I hug them extra tight and when we pull away from the hug I tell them that I’m sorry.  And then I tell them that this mom loves them.

It’s in these precious moments that I want to whine and complain…it’s not enough time!  Five more minutes…pleeaasseee!  I fight back the tears and catch back up to my group.  I smile through the emotions that are catching in my throat since Pride is a happy time.  And I happily give the next hug.

If you’ve been a follower for some time, you know that I left my position as a staff member at my church last June.  I still do work for them, but on a much smaller scale.  I’ve been contemplating what my next adventure will be.  I think God has finally revealed to me what that might be.  Stay tuned!

As I mentioned, not everyone is a hugger.  But everyone should be a lover…because love matters.

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I don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been…

These lyrics from Whitesnake’s song “Here I Go Again” have been stuck in my head for quite some time.  It’s true…I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.  The last several weeks have made me more aware of that fact.

Trauma is a sneaky thing.  We are very aware of it while it’s happening and for some time when it’s over, but I think it throws us through a loop when it resurfaces after being stored in our bodies and our subconscious minds after many years.  This was very evident to me over the summer and it’s taken me some time to process through it.

First my son experienced it.  One day at work he received a phone call from his friend letting him know that her mother suddenly passed away.  She wasn’t sick.  It was one of those instances of having something in your body that isn’t detected until it’s too late.  Even though my son had just turned 3 when my mom passed away, his body and subconscious mind remembered it and this event brought it all back to him in a big way.  There were similarities.  My mom wasn’t sick either.  She was sitting on the floor playing with my kids and had a brain aneurysm.  She was only 50.  He of course was really sad for his friend…but he also had to process through his feelings of loss all over again.  It also scared him because I had just turned 50 and he couldn’t help but wonder if it would happen to me too.

I also had an experience this summer.  It’s really strange what can trigger a memory of trauma.  When my son got out of the hospital after being suicidal, there were a couple of things I had to do.  The first was to change the ring tone on my phone.  Because we got a lot of phone calls regarding my son before we made the decision to hospitalize him, the calls after he got home were just about throwing me into a panic attack.  Changing my ring tone sort of retrained my brain that phone calls weren’t always going to be bad.  The other thing I had to do was stop listening to music that I listened to during the 5 years that he really struggled.  It wasn’t all music, but you know how you can find a song that really speaks to you or brings you comfort during a difficult time?  Those were the songs I couldn’t listen to anymore because they brought me right back to the stress and heartache that I experienced during that time.

So what does all of that have to do with the summer?  Well I told you trauma is sneaky.  You just never know what’s going to trigger it.  And for me it was a phone call this summer.  It was an innocent enough phone call.  It wasn’t even about my son.  But there was something about it that was familiar to me and it took me back to my son’s hospitalization…like right.back.there.  And my brain didn’t stop there.  It replayed every painful conversation, every tear, every sleepless night listening to make sure my son was safe in his room at night, every morning I waited for a text message reply from him while he was at college to make sure he hadn’t taken his life, my anger at God…it just went on and on.  It was pretty brutal and it took some time to get over it.

I know so many families that have similar stories.  This is why I am so passionate about helping other parents and those who don’t have parental support.  This stuff is really hard.  It’s also why I’m passionate about things like marching in the Baltimore Pride Parade and participating in National Coming Out Day.

Last week our community college had some events for the students in what ended up being  Coming Out Week not just day.  I’m really impressed with everything they do for the LGBTQ+ community there and I’ve been honored to be a part of many of them.  Tuesday they had two viewings of the National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution.  It was great to see the amount of people who came out for the documentary…both students and faculty.  It was really well received.  I was asked to come back the following day for the event “Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!”  It was on National Coming Out Day.  It was a fun day of crafts, documentary screenings, and resource information.

I saw some “talk” on the internet about not needing a National Coming Out Day.  The point being made was if gay people want to be treated like everyone else then why do they need a day like this.  The same kind of sentiment went around the internet during Pride month.  If the LGBTQ+ community had the same rights as everyone else and were treated like everyone else, then we wouldn’t need things like Pride month and National Coming Out Day.  When they can walk down the street hand in hand with the person they love, and not be harassed or even have cars accelerate towards them showing aggression…then we won’t need events like these.

What I wore to the college for National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day shows solidarity in the community.  Coming out is stressful and knowing that you aren’t alone is empowering.  So I support this day and all the other days that show this community that they aren’t alone.  My Facebook will be filled with rainbows and memes showing that support.  And I will proudly wear my rainbow “gear” to show that I’m an ally and someone safe to come out to.  I dream of a day that these things won’t be necessary, but we have a long way to go.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I am no longer working for my church.  I left my position in June.  So…I really don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been.  One thing I  will continue to do is fight for this community with everything that I have until the day it is no longer needed.  No more sadness, no more fear, no more trauma.

I went to pick up some pumpkins today and the Doobie Brother’s song “Long Train Runnin'” came on the radio.  I couldn’t help but notice the line that goes like this:

Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove

If you have been lucky enough to be loved for who you are, where would you be without that love.  I’m guessing your life might look a little different.

Get out there and love…because love matters…

Baltimore Pride 2017…

It was an amazing day just like last year and the previous weekend’s march.  It was another scorcher of a day, but that didn’t stop seas of people from attending.  The parade was much larger this year so it took a lot longer to walk it.  I was especially pumped about the group that marched in front of us.  It was a dance team that had several drum players that provided their music.  The drums were LOUD!  And I LOVED it.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared this, but I secretly would love to learn how to play the drums. It’s on my bucket list.  So to have this group provide some beats for us to march to was awesome.

The only downside to the drums was the fact that it made it hard to hear people calling out for mom hugs. I had my sign again and unlike the march where I marched along with everyone else…I was in the parade and there were spectators on each side of the parade route watching us.  People would see my sign and call out asking for a hug.  One of our PFLAG moms was gracious in helping me keep track of everyone that was calling out.  It was a special time and although it was hot and tough moving so slowly, it allowed for lots of hugging.

I lost count of how many hugs I gave out.  It was fun stepping out of line…giving some hugs…and then jogging to catch back up to my group.  There were hugs given after the parade as well.  But probably the most meaningful hug of the day was one of the first that happened.  Mike and I were standing on the corner waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. There were four young girls (I would say 14 or 15 years old) that bounded over to us very excitedly because they saw my sign.  They all asked in unison if they could have a mom hug.  And when they saw that Mike was wearing a “Free Dad Hugs” button, they asked him for a dad hug.  When the third girl hugged me, I kind of felt her exhale.  That’s the only way I know how to describe it.  She kind of just sunk into me.  It was as if she had been carrying a weight and she let it go.  We released our hug and I hugged the last girl. When I stepped back from that last hug, I noticed that the 3rd girl was crying.  I asked if she was ok and she explained through tears that she felt so accepted.

This simultaneously made me extremely happy and intensely sad.  I remembered how she hugged me.  I do believe it released a heavy weight in her.  And although it made me feel good that she was able to attend Pride so she could experience a place where she could be herself, it reminded me of how much she must struggle at home or in her social circles.  I imagine that Pride is a boost for many people giving them the strength to continue on in a world that misunderstands them.  And for others I can imagine that it is quite depressing when they get home because it reminds them of what they are missing on a daily basis.

I would like to point something out here.  She did not tell me that she felt like her sexuality was accepted at Pride.  She said that SHE felt accepted.  She wasn’t there celebrating a “lifestyle.”  She was there celebrating life.  The LGBTQ community gets up everyday.  They go to work or school.  They come home and eat dinner, maybe watch their favorite show on TV, do their homework if they are in school, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again the next day.  Their sexuality is just one piece of who they are just like straight people.

Free mom hugs are just one way to love this community.  Stepping into their stories, really listening, and learning from them is another way.  Let’s do better at this…let’s do better at loving them.

Because love matters…

Baltimore Pride…

For about the last three years, I’ve been wanting to attend a Pride parade.  It just never seemed to work out.  I would either totally not remember that there even was a Pride parade until it had already passed, or I would be on vacation, or have one of those nasty summer colds.  I just couldn’t seem to get there.  Until this year.  Since I help run a PFLAG group, it was on my radar screen and I was excited to finally be able to attend. Double bonus that this year it was on my birthday!  So yesterday I spent my birthday marching in my very first Pride parade (smile).

Many people ask me…why Pride?  Why do the gays have to have a special day?  The straight people don’t have that…there isn’t a straight pride parade.  My basic answer is you don’t understand it because you don’t live it.  You aren’t gay.  Every day is straight pride day.  You can walk through the streets and be yourself.  Every day.  You can hold your loved ones hand and not think a thing of it.  Every day.  You don’t have to fear for your safety because of who you are…every day.  The LGBTQ community in most areas do not have any of those luxuries.  Pride is a time for them to be together with like-minded people and be their authentic selves.  No masks.  No hiding.  No fear.  No judgement.  Until you live without that…you probably won’t understand why they value the Pride celebrations so much.

If you’ve been a reader for some time, I’ve mentioned before that when I was younger I used to march in parades (post 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).  I know what it’s like to feel the energy of the crowd, and the excitement I feel when I hear the marching bands start to play. It’s fun.  So, I kind of knew what to expect.  Now I’m just going stop here for a moment to tell you how hot is was out there.  It was HOT!  Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot.  I looked at the weather app on my phone for yesterday and at the time we were there for the parade it was 99 degrees.  That does not take into account the humidity and heat index. Yikes!  I took the biggest bottle of water I could find and let me tell you it was just about as big as me.  The down side to that was as it got towards the bottom of the bottle I seriously could have made hot tea with the water that was left…it got that heated.  Yuck!

Ok…back to the parade.  My PFLAG group lined up and waited for our turn to start down the parade route.  I could feel the excitement in the air, but more importantly I could feel the love and acceptance in the air.  As we rounded the corner, I was amazed at all the people who were there on the sides.  They had gates set up so they couldn’t go into the road and in some places the people were 4 and 5 rows deep.  Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in parades before, but I had never seen anything like this.  I read today that the Baltimore City Fire Department estimated that 10,000 people were in attendance.  I have to tell you…hearing the cheers as we went by, seeing the happy faces…I was overcome with emotion. I’m in tears just thinking about it now.  It’s something that I will never, ever forget.

We walked on and the cheering never stopped.  People were holding hands.  People were happy.  But it wasn’t without its protesters.  I saw four.  They were holding large signs with the usual things you see at things like this telling us to repent or the fires of hell were coming to get us.  I saw about four interesting outfits…hardly any clothing on, but other than that it was pretty tame. The rest of the people were dressed like me, or what you might see at the beach.  In fact, I’ve seen worse at the beach.  When we got to the end of the parade route, we were able to go over to the gated area to watch the rest of the parade go by.  One of the really encouraging things I saw were a group of churches go by.  There were several denominations: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, and others that I can’t remember because there were so many passing by.  It did my heart good to see them there.

Since I’m not gay, why go to a Pride parade?  There are a several reasons.  The first being that our PFLAG group wanted to get the word out that we are here.  We are needed…and we want the community to know that we exist in our county.  The second being that anything that is helpful to my son I want to support.  Even though he didn’t attend (it was too hot for him – and he isn’t a fan of big crowds)…it’s a place where he can be himself if he did attend.  The third is that I just want to be where people need love and support.  I feel such a strong calling to that and honestly I am the happiest when I am doing it.  The event isn’t just for LGBTQ people, but also for the people who love and support them.  I can’t wait to go again next year!

When I’m with my PFLAG group, or with LGBTQ folks, I feel comfortable.  I’m not on guard.  I don’t have to worry about what other people think of me.  I don’t have to be prepared to “debate” someone for supporting my kid.  As parents, we don’t have it as bad as our kids do, but we do deal with being preached at, lost relationships, sometimes lost jobs, etc…just because we love and support our kids.  With all of the negativity in the world right now regarding the LGBTQ issues, it is nice to have a place to go where you see some positive.  Just this morning one of the moms in my private FB group posted this (I got her permission to share):

Hello mamas! I have been, like a lot of us lately, really struggling with all of the negative stuff on social media that just seems to be constantly circling about. I am still learning to just walk away, get off of FB, etc. because even at this stage of the journey, I tend to knee jerk react sometimes and that usually isn’t helpful at all. So today, I was looking forward to getting to church-many of you know I attend an open and affirming church here in Hickory, NC (for reals 😃)and I love it there! Safe place with lots of love! I pulled into the parking lot and dang if we didn’t have protesters today!! 😳They had huge signs and bull horns and the thing that sent me over the edge was that there were small children with them!!! 😡 WTH??? They were yelling that the all the people that died in Orlando were burning in hell right now and we were going to burn with them! They were calling for our pastor to come out and face them- they called him a liar and a coward. It was awful! They said that they were standing far away from us so that our perversion wouldn’t touch them. It was just unbelievably awful! So much for peace 😰

These are the types of things that we and our kids deal with on a daily basis.  It’s hard sometimes to not just crawl in a hole some where and never come out.  It gets to be exhausting.

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This is my extended family. Love them!

I told my son yesterday I wished there was a Pride parade every weekend (smile).  But while I wait for 2017 Pride, I will be searching for ways to show this community that I love them, that God loves them, and that they matter more than they can imagine.

Because love matters…