Pride is More Than a Parade
By: Angela Ma
I want to share the joy of Pride–the elation of living and loving out loud, the color, and the unabashed queerness in the streets. I want to share the joy, I do, but it’s a terrifying time.
There’s a myth–one that declares there’s one way to have a family, a body, and a mind. This is the myth of a “real America” which claims one best religion, race, and language. It’s a myth of one right way to love and one right way to be a boy or girl. The claim to righteousness and superiority presumes a right to power, dominance, and affluence.
This myth is dangerous. People outside this privileged group face vitriol and violence for merely asserting their right to a dignified existence and the full expression of their humanity. From terrorist mass shooter manifestos in Charleston and Buffalo to white nationalist chants in the streets of Charlotesville and our nation’s Capitol, they claim “we will not be replaced.” It’s not just violent extremists that claim this right. Cable TV hosts posit a conspiracy will plant immigrant electors to replace “legacy Americans” and an AP Poll finds one in three Americans believe this replacement conspiracy. This claim of a right race, religion, and ethnicity is also a claim to right ideas, sexuality, and gender norms. Laws in Texas, Florida, and now my home state of North Carolina erase and stigmatize families, teachers, and children with “Parental Rights” bills that assert their right to refuse the legitimacy and inclusion of all families, all gender expression, and all identities in our schools. It’s a claim to control the story of America. Young children who come to understand themselves in the stories of their culture are the most vulnerable to this insidious myth.
Family is where healthy identity begins, but not all families are revered for their love and connection. The myth has us imagine a normal and right family as a woman and man in their first marriage with children, when less than half of families actually fit this mold.
How can we help every family feel seen, included, and valued? How can we destroy this story of heteronormativity that claims it’s not just normal to be straight, but better to be straight? How can we show every child with our words, our attitudes, and our actions that any way to be a boy is ok, any way to be a girl is ok, and any way to be you is ok?
I like to think we’ve progressed past the rigid gender norms of my grandparents, but infants as young as 10 months associate objects like a scarf and hammer with gender. Adults make ridiculous assumptions about gender, simply based on a child’s clothes or hair. When children don’t fit our assumptions they hear, “You’re not performing your gender correctly” or “You’re not becoming the person we expect you to be.” For LGBTQ+ youth, it’s hard to hear that you’re okay, you’re enough, you have a right to be you over the relentless message that ‘You should be something you’re not.’ People across an ideological spectrum share concern for the alarming rates at which transgender children induce self-harm, but if a single supportive adult is the most protective factor for trans-youth, is it the child that’s the problem, or is it us? How can we stop perpetuating messages that tell children who they ought to be?
For decades and decades, Americans drove trans culture underground then dared to call it deviant. Under constant threat of arrest and assault, Black and Brown femmes led the uprising at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1978. Their uprising is the reason I could marry my wife. Those same folks who fought for the rights I now enjoy, are the most targeted, hurt, and killed in my community. So, no, I can’t just share the joy of Pride. I can’t just march, cheer, and wear rainbow colors. I’ll feel proud when we reclaim the story of our country and exalt in the infinite variety of humankind. Our children deserve a new story of radical love and radical acceptance–not just for Pride month, but every day of every year.
About the Author
Angie Ma is Director of Education at Follow the Child Montessori School in Raleigh, NC and a Mentor at the Montessori Institute of North Texas. She holds an AMI Assistants to Infancy diploma from The Montessori Institute in Denver, an AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of St. Louis, and a M.MEd from Loyola University. Angie taught many years in Toddler and Children’s House classrooms. She is a speaker and most recently presented, “See Myself, Be Myself: LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Primary Classroom” at the 2022 AMI/USA Montessori Experience and Refresher Course.
Angie lives in Durham NC, on the unceded lands of the Skarureh and Tuscarora Peoples, with her wife, Sarah, and their daughters Lilah and Maddie. The family’s Golden Retrievers, Fenway Parker and Piper, love to take Angie on hikes, listen to her ukulele strumming, and offer encouragement when she gardens.
Facts about LGBTQ youth suicide. The Trevor Project. (2022, May 18). Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/article/facts-about-lgbtq-youth-suicide/
Fatal violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming … – HRC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.hrc.org/resources/fatal-violence-against-the-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2022
Immigration attitudes and conspirational thinkers – apnorc.org. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://apnorc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Immigration-Report_V15.pdf
Pew Research Center. (2020, May 30). 1. The American Family Today. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/
Yourish, K., Cai, W., Buchanan, L., Byrd, A., Harvey, B., Migliozzi, B., Taylor, R., Williams, J., & Zandlo, M. (2022, April 30). Inside the apocalyptic worldview of ‘Tucker Carlson tonight’. The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/04/30/us/tucker-carlson-tonight.html?referringSource=articleShare
June 7, 2022