• Michaëlle Martial

3 Reasons Why I Marched at the Utah Pride Parade this Year

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

This past June, I marched at the Utah Pride Parade with my children for the first time. I had attended the parade a couple of times in the past with my family and a gay friend, but this year seemed like the perfect time to do something different. I want to share with you the 3 main reasons why I decided to march at the parade this year.

Let me preface this post by saying that I grew up Christian, and we were taught at a very young age that homosexuality was something that would bring people damnation of their soul. The church I attended most of my life also says that while homosexuality is not in itself a sin, acting on it certainly is.

1. Because the LGBTQ+ Community Needs more Allies

In February 2017, I was selected to be in the cast of The Vagina Monologues play, which was directed by students of the University of Utah theater program and took place on the University of Utah campus. During my experience as one of the cast members, I got to read about and listen to different characters (based on real life stories) who had been sexually assaulted. One of the characters was a transgender woman. Listening to the lines of the trans woman who was assaulted, and in talking to some cast members who were Queer, I got to peak into the LGBTQ+ community’s lifestyle and struggles. In discussing further with LGBT friends and through my own research, I came to find out that sexual, and physical acts of violence were common occurrence in the LGBT community. My heart began to soften, and my eyes opened to the fact that there’s no way someone would willingly go through some of the cruelest experiences on a daily basis without having something inside him or her pushing them to be who they are.

Since my experience as a cast member in The Vagina Monologues, I began to see things through different lenses. I certainly can’t stand here and say I understand or am knowledgeable about everything LGBT, but I can say with assurance, that being an ally has made me a better person. Speaking of ally, I’m working with a local nonprofit to start holding in the fall a writing and arts Youth Workshop for minority youth including LGBTQ+ teens in Utah. I invite other local artists to collaborate with me in this effort to empower our youth who find themselves rejected by society. The suicide rate in Utah is going at an alarming pace. The last school year alone, my 2 oldest children attending Junior High and High School have had at least 5 schoolmates take their own lives. The LGBT youth is being targeted by sexual predators. That is not OK. The LGBTQ+ Youth needs more allies, especially in Utah to send the message that bullying is not okay and that they matter. The LGBT community needs more allies, period!

2. Because when someone stays in the closet, they may hurt not only themselves but their loved ones and others around them

More often than not, the society where we live in shows little to no tolerance for people they don’t understand. That includes minority groups, as well as the LGBTQ+ community. This can make it very difficult for someone to take the brave step of “coming out” to their loved ones as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. I get that, but I didn’t always get it. I’ve listened to “coming out” stories of friends, acquaintances and strangers. It seemed to me that they all had some similarities. The fear of being rejected from their loved ones was always at the top of the list. You don’t need to be queer to experience that sort of fear. It is human nature to want to be accepted by our family, our church community, and our peers.

We’ve heard of men who are “on the low down”, meaning they are married to a woman but regularly have sexual intercourse with other men in secret. I’ve seen women who have been affected by the decision of men who got in a committed relationship with these women, fully knowing that they were more attracted to other men than women. The women in this situation are often referred to as a “beard”. Though I will not go into much more details, I will however say this. I have been a beard. I was told once that the experience of being in a long-term relationship with someone who was gay was similar to a traumatic experience. It involves deception, shock, blaming, shaming, and so forth. I’m inclined to agree.

All the women I have spoken with who have been beards have all echoed my own sentiments. A sense of betrayal and the thought of “not being enough for him” were prominent. On one hand, these women would feel relieved that the fact that the men didn’t cheat or reject them wasn’t because they were not beautiful. On the other hand, these women still felt rejected because they think that they were either too stupid to recognize the signs or not capable of attracting heterosexual men.

Things get even more complicated when there are children involved. How does a mother explain to her children why their parents are not together anymore? How can those children make sense of information they find out on their own about their gay father who lived with their mother for several years but yet was never attracted to their mother? Those are just few examples of the typical experiences or questions children and past female partners of gay men have to face.

I can’t help but feel sorry for the men who deliberately (or not so deliberately) live a lie everyday and drag women and sometimes even children into their deceptive lifestyles. What a heavy burden it must be for them to keep living a double life! Can you imagine the mental torture? How exhausting! In a perfect world, no one would have to endure the pains that come with a judgmental society that will hurt emotionally, physically, or sexually the gays, lesbians, or transgenders among us. But this is not a perfect world. We have to make do with what we have and hope for the best. Most of all, we have to step out of the shadows of others for our own sake, for the sake of our children. The society where we live has gotten better. There are more allies than ever before. We can all do better.

3. Because my child needs me

When one of my children “came out” to me, and though later I felt extremely blessed that they had confided in me, at that very moment I was at a loss of words. I may have even uttered some very insensitive words based on my limited knowledge of the Queer lifestyle or community. I wrestled in my mind for months with several thoughts. For example, what did I do as a mother to turn my child queer? Was a bad mother for wanting each one of my children to be happy, being who they are, being who I taught them to be?

The turning point for me was a few months later when I realized that I know each one of my children. I carried them for 9 months. I felt each of their spirits, their strong personalities, including my youngest child who had died a few months after birth. After she passed away, I made some much needed revisions in my life. It all became clear to me. I was going to no longer be a battered wife or a doormat for a spouse who constantly belittled me despite putting my life on the line with each complicated pregnancy, or despite putting my dreams on the back burner to help fulfill his.

After the death of my youngest daughter, I had also decided that I would start believing in myself more, practice more self-care. Finally, I made the decision around the time of my daughter’s passing that I would be there for my living children no matter what. Of course, that didn’t mean that I would be enabling them or support them in hurting themselves or others. What I wanted and will always want for them is for them to be true to themselves. I have learned that when you are being true to yourself, you have much more to offer to the world. As for organizations or individuals trying to put them down for who God created them to be, if they have a problem with that, well, they can go shove it where the sun don’t shine.

The world is ruthless enough out there for our teens without us having to add this additional and frankly unnecessary stress on them. I firmly believe that God doesn’t make mistakes in the world he has created. That includes all of us. The fact that we do not understand certain things about people doesn’t mean that we’re right to mistreat His children. I for one am proud to have such a talented, loving, and compassionate soul dwelling within the walls of my home. Yes, mothers of Queer children are special mothers. This may take some time to absorb or sort through in your mind. Believe that your God and/or the universe will guide you in the ways you can gradually support all of your children that will make them happy adults and outstanding citizens in their respective communities.

#LGBT #UtahPride #Family

Photo Credit: Tania Luiza Photography

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