I didn't know it at the time, but my son's coming out to his family was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I joined Indianapolis PFLAG (eventually becoming Indiana State Coordinator), got involved with Indiana Equality and met some of the most wonderful people I ever knew, and marched in Indy Pride.
The first time I marched in the Indy Pride Parade with Indianapolis PFLAG was in 2005. I had no idea what I was in for. I met our group early in the morning on Mass Avenue near College. Two people held the PFLAG banner, and the rest of us marched behind them. I remember it was very hot that day, and I didn't even have a PFLAG t-shirt. I had never marched in any kind of parade, but I soon learned that it wouldn't have mattered if I had: the Indy Pride Parade is not just any old parade.
We started marching, and I had to walk fast to keep up with everyone else. As we walked down the street, I saw crowds of people standing on the sidewalks, looking out the windows, all waving and cheering as the marchers and floats went by. But as our group started to walk past the crowd, I heard people yelling "PFLAG, we love you!," "Thank you PFLAG!," "You're wonderful, PFLAG!" I looked around and wondered who these people were and why they were saying these things as we passed by.
The woman marching next to me told me that a lot of these people were LGBT adults who never experienced good relationships with their families after coming out. They knew that PFLAG members were their advocates. Others were LGBT youth who knew that even if they couldn't talk to their own parents, they could come to us and we would try to answer their questions and give them support. As I listened, tears formed in my eyes. I don't think I had ever thought about these things before and it made me realize what a powerful organization PFLAG is.
So every year I look forward to Pride. For me, Pride isn't just about the parade and the floats and the rainbow clothes and accessories. Pride is a place where we're all on the same page -- where a gay boy or lesbian girl can come to our booth and just hang out, knowing that we won't judge them or tell them they're wrong for being who they are. It's a place where a gay adult can tell us that difficult things were for him when he was young, but since he came out later in life he's in a great place and wants to thank us because 20 years ago, he was able to share who he was for the first time at a PFLAG meeting. It's about PFLAG's mission which is changing hearts and minds.
As I'm writing, I wonder if the people who read this will think I'm just very corny or overly sentimental. But I know that I'm not. I've been given a gift (actually, many gifts) and I want to thank all of the wonderful LGBT people and straight allies -- and my gay son -- who have changed my life and who have taught me, among other things, to not judge people and accept everyone just as they are. And if you attend the Indy Pride Parade and Festival on June 8th, please wave as Indianapolis PFLAG makes its way down Mass Avenue. Better yet, come visit us at Booth #58 so I can thank you in person.