So, Pride’s coming up in a couple of weeks.

Last time I went, I went with a guy I hadn’t met before; we’d set it up online—same way I first met my first boyfriend, now I happen to think on it. This fellow was shy, cute, and able to keep up with me for about a half hour, which was entirely fair—to my own vast surprise I danced and drank and got sunburned and danced some more and got about forty different kinds of sunscreen on me and got some offers that probably would’ve been a lot of fun if it’d been a few years earlier or later, when I’d have been down for them.

Of course, I also almost got arrested when the bondage booth turned out to be, by the lights of some cop I’d never seen before and haven’t since, a little too much about bondage. So, you know. Headed home a lot earlier than I’d planned. As you do. Haven’t been back since. Haven’t been in a hurry to be.

A friend wants me to join him this year. I haven’t said no yet. Might say yes—certainly will, if I’m right in thinking his offer has less to do with showing me a good time than with him needing some serious support to manage kind of crowd again, but being a touch too proud to say so. He knew me back when I was just a baby queer, and he’s known me all the time from then to now. On top of all that history, asking outright would be just the sort of thing to gravel him, I think.

Hell, I don’t want to go, or not mostly anyway. If nothing else, I’m still working on getting back into those bell bottoms—yes, I know, and you only think that because you haven’t seen how my ass makes them look. When I fit them like I should, anyway, damn it. But…on the other hand, what the hell, it’s not as if I have a lot of chances to meet new people of late, is it? Or go to anything even vaguely resembling a party. And after everything, I figure this year it’ll either be unusually small and chill, or unusually huge and heaving. If I’m to be entirely honest with myself, I have to admit that both of those sound fun.

And besides, you know what? Fuck a cop if he thinks he’s going to scare me off from what, even if it isn’t all it might’ve been in the days before respectability politics and corporate colonization, still will be the first queer space I’ll have been in since, fuckin, almost a decade ago now? Too long. Far too long. And anyway—I am no longer still quite who I was, back then.

Who was I then? I was terrified. For the space of an afternoon, I managed not to be. Maybe it would’ve lasted, if it didn’t end the way it did. Who knows?—and who knows what I’d be now if it had? I still had a long way further into trouble to go, before I’d start getting back out of it again. How much of it might never have happened, if only—

Who am I now? I’m the kid that ran out of a crowd to join his mom in a whole new kind of parade, a parade that went up the middle of a little Mississippi town where nobody at all on the parade route was cheering. That town didn’t want us there—not like that, anyway. It wanted us on its terms or not at all. We showed it that wasn’t how things would be, and after a while people looked back and wondered why they’d ever thought it was such a big deal in the first place. But it had been a big deal, in the first place.

Hell, I didn’t know till after what the whole thing was even about. I’m sure I’d heard the phrase “pride parade” some time, seeing as my mom would likely have been one of the people who’d organized it, but if you think I live a lot in my head now, you should’ve seen me then. I definitely didn’t do it to make any kind of point, and not because I had something in common with everyone else who was there—of course I did, but it’d take a few years yet for me to realize that.

I don’t really remember, but I think Mom might have tried to keep it from me in any case, to the extent that was necessary with so unworldly a child as I. I think she very much didn’t want me involved. For almost all my life, what she’s wanted for me more than anything is that my life be good, and that my life be normal, in the hope that such a life might leave me with fewer scars than hers had. But whatever normal is, I’m not, and I tried pretending otherwise long enough to know nothing good comes that way. Of late I think she’s finally coming around to the idea that I might be okay.

If she did try to keep it from me, then I suppose it must’ve been frustrating as hell when she saw me break out of the crowd. But she hadn’t told me not to, and she’s my mom, and I wasn’t getting to see her very often those days, and I love her. So I ran out of the crowd and into the parade to join her, and we walked the rest of the way hand in hand. Simple as that, and that still counts. And I wasn’t scared, not even a little.

That kid—that kid, and thirty mortal years. That’s who I am. I forgot that for a long time, sure. I remember it now. So, yeah. I’m going.

…or I would be going, if Pride were happening in this town this year, which it looks to be mostly not. Guess it would’ve been smart to check before I wrote this, huh? But maybe it was wiser not to. Maybe all I’m doing here is putting down a marker for this time next year, sure. But I am putting down a marker for this time next year. That still counts, too.

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