The first gay pride parade I went to was in 2007.

It was in Portland, of course, winding through Monument Square to Deering Oaks. I was 14 and not out yet, although I had my first crush on a girl when I was 11 and in the sixth grade, so I knew I belonged there. I don’t remember much about it, other than I went with my family, we marched with our church (the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Luke) and we had a big, hand-painted cloth banner that said, “Our grandparents were queer.” It was my dad’s idea to go to the march; it was his parents who were queer. He was raised by his mother and her partner, my Grandma Joanie, who Dad considered his real and primary parent.

By the time the 2008 parade came around, I was out. I was very, very out. I had my rainbow knee socks and a rainbow bandana and a sign that said, “I am YOUNG, QUEER AND PROUD.” We marched with my church then, too; my little sister, who was 7, carried a sign almost as big as she was that read, “The Gay Agenda: 1. Fall in love. 2. Have a family. 3. Buy milk.” For the next few years, Pride was a family event. I still think of it that way.

This past weekend was the first time in several years that I went to Portland Pride. It was my girlfriend Bo’s first time at Pride as her actual self, so of course I wanted to go with her. First thing I noticed was how much larger Portland Pride has gotten in the past several years. Which is good – I’m always in favor of more LGBTQ people and allies – but, boy, I was pretty overwhelmed the whole time. The noise! The colors! (My gosh, the colors.) My brain and eyeballs were pinging around like someone threw a bouncy ball into a concrete box.

I told my brother I didn’t remember feeling so overwhelmed at the parades we’d gone to in high school. He said, “That’s because you’re becoming a mature, Maine woman. You want to be gay, quietly, in flannel and in the woods.” He might have a point. Luckily for fellow introverts, autists and people who just don’t like large crowds, there are always calm, quiet spots under the trees at Deering Oaks Park where you can stretch out a blanket and be queer in the shade.

I love seeing kids at pride parades. In Portland, some were with their families – two moms, two dads, a mom and a dad where one parent is bisexual or transgender, or really any infinite possible combinations of family, a religious fundamentalist’s worst nightmare – and some were there for themselves.


It’s hard being a queer kid. Your experience pretty much depends on whether or not your family is accepting, which is a roll of the dice. We’re also in the middle of a conservative backlash against LGBTQ rights, and transgender children are their No. 1 target. And if someone’s got an issue with transgender kids, then they probably aren’t too great about kids who are queer or gender nonconforming in general.

Some folks think that the rising numbers of queer young people are part of a nefarious plot or are a bad thing for some reason. They are not. The reason that there weren’t any openly gay, trans or bisexual kids “back in the day” is because it wasn’t safe to come out. A lot of us know we’re queer very early on, but kids are pretty observant of their environment; if coming out means being rejected by their family and friends and mistreated by members of their community, they aren’t going to do it. They’ll hide until it’s safe.

My girlfriend had to hide for 37 years. The kids at the parade? They’re safe now. They don’t have to hide. I came out at 15 because my parents made it safe. They loved me no matter what. They were proud of me. The older I get, the more I realize just how lucky I was to be born to Ross and Julia.

Some of the young ones at the parade were outgoing and confident and bubbly. Others were a little bit shy. You could tell from their body language. Maybe they were naturally a bit introverted, or maybe they were used to being the only queer kid in the room. Or maybe, like young Victoria, they were kind of embarrassed that their parents were with them at the Pride festival because they were hoping to look cool and independent instead – I remember being a teenager all too well.

Twenty years on, I realize how rare and revolutionary my parents were.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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