Six years ago, one of the first events we brought our then-newborn daughter to was Moncton’s Pride Parade.
It was a short parade, without a lot of fanfare, even compared to those I’d attended in Cape Breton. But it was important to us to be there and to make it a family event.
When I was around the same age as my children, Canada wasn’t holding pride parades. We were seeing arrests, and violence, and protest marches. It’s hard for me to imagine the fear that must have existed among so many different groups of people at the time of bathhouse raids of 1977 in Montreal and 1981 in Toronto. It’s also hard for me to imagine how far we have come in such a short time.
My children are growing up in a country where we’ve moved from protests to parades. There is no secrecy about sexuality, in our home or in our community. So why do we need to go to a parade? Because we all should stand together to celebrate love and acceptance.
I was chatting with several friends this week who also bring their families to our pride parade. As parents, we share similar reasons for attending. Our kids also share a similar take on the event. “So, it’s just about rainbows and love and candy, then?” Yes, it sort of is, and at a certain age, that’s all you need to say about it.
But it doesn’t take long for the messages of acceptance and a deeper understanding to emerge.
My friend Natalie has been walking in the parade for several years with her two boys. “My kids really have no bias when it comes to sexuality or gender, it’s kind of amazing,” she says. “But attending Pride for the first time caused them to dig a little deeper with their questions and offered a teaching opportunity.”
“Because of Pride, my kids know that many of our friends have faced discrimination. [They] understand what it means to be an ally and they hold that responsibility with care. Because of Pride, my kids have learned what it means to be an advocate and have dialogue about inclusion and fairness.”
At age eight, her son sums it up perfectly:
“Some people don’t like others who are different from them. Everyone should feel good and like they’re not alone.”
That’s the world in which I want my kids to grow up. One in which they never feel alone. One in which they never want another person to feel alone. One in which our community comes together each year to celebrate love and kindness, which is what I see on the streets of Moncton during the Pride parade.
I wasn’t unaccepting of people’s sexuality when I was younger, but I also wasn’t openly accepting, mostly because no one close to me was talking about the importance of making sure no one felt alone. I often wish I could go back and explain to myself that even if I didn’t realize it, I had friends who were craving that acceptance that I would have willingly given. My silence negatively impacted them. Our collective silence on the topic was damaging. I don’t want my kids to be silent.
So yes, take your kids to the parade. Talk about why who you love shouldn’t be a private thing. Talk about respect, and honesty, and the importance of being an ally, not just a bystander. Celebrate a community that cares for its people enough to walk through the streets and cheer. And yes, your kids may focus on the rainbows and the candy. But one day, when someone challenges their understanding of what it means to be equal and safe, they’ll remember that no one should feel alone.