I didn’t go to my first Pride until I was in my 40s. It was about four years ago, and I was in the big city with half a dozen friends to see a show. We made plans to go to the Pride festival beforehand, taking the subway downtown and walking toward Church St. from the station. At the edges of the festival, volunteers were collecting donations in exchange for stickers that would label their wearers as queer, gay, poly, trans, or bi, among other things. I pondered the selection. This straight, middle-aged cis-woman finally slapped a “Flexible” on her sundress, thinking it was broad enough that it could apply to many facets of my being without being hypocritical.
We wandered through the fair, and I thought it would be hard to choose a better decorating scheme than rainbow. People in the high rises all around had draped pride flags from their windows, and rainbow buntings adorned shop awnings. I decided I wanted a flag of my own, and trotted down a flight of stairs into a cramped shop below street level. I picked out a small fabric flag about the size of a post card and tucked the stick into my purse. We went on to soak up the live music, spectacular outfits, and celebratory sensations all around us.
When I got home, I put the small pride flag up on the side of my kitchen cupboard next to the sink. I showed it to my son, who was fourteen at the time. “See that? Someday, one of your friends will be over here and know this is a safe space.” He looked at it and nodded without saying anything, and it quickly became part of the scenery, the kind of thing you look at every day without seeing it. The only time I really thought about it was when he had friends over, and occasionally I wondered if anyone noticed it and understood what it meant.
It took three years for me to find out that flag was, indeed, signaling my home was a safe space, but it wasn’t for one of my son’s friends. It was for my middle kid, three years younger than their older brother. One winter night I was driving them to an activity, and in the quiet darkness they came out to me. They told me they were bi the same way they might announce they were going to a movie: no hesitation, pause, or nervousness.
One of the first things they asked was if we could go to Pride together. Six months later, I was back on Church St looking at stickers again. My child chose a Bi sticker, although since that time their identity has been evolving, and I think this year they’ll choose something else. We’re both learning as we go along, and we’re both okay with wherever they land.
As soon as we were stickered, they were drawn to the flags the street vendors were selling. They bought one of their own, but not a postcard-sized one. No, they opted for a full-sized flag and wore it like a superhero cape all day. Even after we left the fair and took the streetcar out to the west end they wore it, alight and proud.