We arrive early to help set up the picnic. Volunteers are already organizing by the time we arrive, led by a black person with rainbow hair named Star (they/them). I am introduced to Star by Caelan, and learn that Star also works at the Damien Center, which is exactly the sort of thing I’ve come for, to meet my husband’s coworkers.
At least mostly.
In many ways I dread events like this, I’ve always felt like an intruder in these spaces, surrounded by genderqueer humans and people of color.
“Here I come with my white, cisgender, het-passing meatsack to bring the overall authenticity of this queer celebration down.”
For some reason, today does not feel that way. I feel like an observer, but not an intruder.
As the tables are set, and people begin to arrive, I have a few moments to appreciate the shear diversity of the human condition on display.
Trans folks, queer folks, non-binary folks, and a few straights here with queer family. It truly is a rainbow of sex, sexuality, and race that surrounds me.
I start to think of myself not as an observer at all.
I am observing obviously, but so are many others. A photographer is taking pictures of everything from the setup of the tables, to the people unpacking food, even pictures of Caelan as he directs the parking traffic. Many others have phones out for pictures with friends or just of the panorama around them.
Everyone seems to know eachother, even when they have obviously never met before.
I even find myself very easily speaking to Star about setup, despite my normal anxieties.
Everyone here, myself included, seems to be united by our existence outside the “natural,” and so we are obviously allies.
No. Not allies.
Capital F “Family” has long been a turn of phrase used by the queer community to describe itself.
You family might not accept you, but the Family always will.
Yet, here and now, it seems almost literal.
Meeting the people around the spot I pick for Cael’s and my picnic blanket, I really do get the same sensation of meeting a distant relative for the first time with each introduction.
I can’t tell if it is the nature of a Pride event, or the fact that we’re just coming out of pandemic isolation, but the air of the event is light with a sense of freedom.
Or at the very least, a relaxation of painful restraints.
I can feel it too.
Like relaxing a muscle I didn’t know was tense.
What tasks there are left to do are quickly taken up by folks eager to volunteer. Some not even those who signed up for the job like Cael did.
I find myself throwing a full effort into the task as well.
And yet, strangely, though I eventually leave the volunteers a bit early to set up our picnic blanket, my common anxiety over appearing lazy or uncommitted is absent.
It is a strange vibe to the work.
An eagerness to make the day better, but very little pressure to do anything at all.
I help, and it is earnestly appreciated.
I relax, and I am not chastised.
It feels unlike any other volunteer work I’ve done.
As the setup is done, and festivities of the day get properly underway, I continue to be surprised by myself.
I am normally very conscious of my body, but I find that I am quite relaxed already, not concerned if I appear fat or odd looking. I even find that I am, without meaning to, swaying to the music that plays.
Definitely not an observer.
I think I’m going to put my notebook away for now.