I’ve been going to gay pride festivals for almost 20 years. In principle, these festivals are about celebrating community, rejoicing in all our true colors, and shining bright in the face of a society that wants us to feel ashamed. After all, it’s all the same love. We’re all connected by our differences, right? We’re not just in this boat together, we’re a community. Right?
Well, in principle that’s what’s supposed to happen. To some extent it does, but I’ve got a confession. For most of those 20 years, I’ve walked the grounds of those festivals feeling disconnected and isolated.
This year I went back to Minneapolis for the gay pride festivities. At about 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon I stood at an intersection of two pathways in the middle of Loring Park, waiting while my friend Scotty chatted with a couple friends. A woman walked past with the distinctive demeanor of a transgender woman who is only beginning to explore the experience of presenting as a woman in public. She was middle-aged, tall, slightly awkward in pumps, holding her hands in a hesitant fashion that hovered just short of wringing. Her wig was not doing well in the sun. She wore big sunglasses, possibly to hide her identity. Though it was hot out, her clothes covered almost all of her body, shielding her.
I wondered if she felt welcome there in the park. Maybe this was one of the few places where she felt comfortable being herself in public. Maybe she was both terrified and ecstatic about being there. I imagined her walking among the vendor tents and wondered if she felt as disconnected as I do.
Scotty’s conversation took a while. By the time he finished chatting, that woman had passed us twice. As we turned to depart, she passed us again. In the time that we stood there, she had walked the circuit three times. No stopping, no conversations. The park had turned her into a daytime ghost. She didn’t have anywhere to land. She didn’t have a place where someone welcomed her, asked her to stay, and invited her to celebrate with them. So few of us have places like that.
When I first saw her, I saw a person in search of connection, safety and belonging. When I last saw her, I saw a vast rushing void growing between us, and that void was pouring forth from each of us who circled there in the park. What are the wounds that leave this void bleeding out of us?