As this series comes to an end, use this a reminder that the people in the queer community come in many different shapes and sizes, as do families. Since the very first Pride march took place in New York City on June 28, 1970, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots, Pride has been a place where people in the queer community and allies come to recognize the ongoing impact that queer people have had throughout history. Remembering that Pride became what it is today because of a riot that lasted over the span of multiple days is vital. Equality comes through dismantling strife and showing support for the causes that are fighting for justice.
Each year, Pride month harnesses new meaning for millions. For some people, Pride is a place where they can be surrounded by people who are just like them and a place of safety. To 16-year-old Clark Student Kristina Van Houten who identifies as lesbian, and her moms Jill and Susan, Pride has always held a special place in their heart.
The road to acceptance wasn’t an easy one for Kristina Van Houten who had attended a ballet academy in Utah. Being in Utah brought Kristina to feel like who she is was wrong. She battled with internalized homophobia and unfortunately, the common experience of being outed unwillingly.
“I told someone I trusted that I wasn’t straight, and either someone overheard me, or she told someone, but by the end of the year, everyone knew,” she said. “Everyone at the ballet academy I went to was very Mormon, so they didn’t bring it up. I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t care or if they just didn’t approve,” Kristina recalled.
Many people outside the community believe that being raised by same-sex parents holds back children from having a “normal” childhood, that the quality of life would be less than a child raised by “normal” parents.
Kristina Van Houten is here to say that, “being raised by same-sex parents did not in any way hold me back from having a normal childhood. It was difficult at times once I had gotten to school age because a lot of the other kids didn’t understand it, but I think that being raised by two moms has made me a very open, accepting, and loving person.”
While she doesn’t remember her first pride parade, as her mom’s involvement in “several LGBT+ business organizations,” has led to her attending pride often, she does have the memory of her first Pride after she had come out as a lesbian.
Kristina had been attending Pride for many years as a daughter of a lesbian couple before she attended as part of the community herself, and the Portland Pride became her place to let out all the uncomfortableness left from Utah that she had been holding on to.
“I don’t remember the first time I went to pride, but the one that stands out the most was the summer of the Pulse Nightclub shooting because everyone seemed so united and it was also the first pride I had gone to while I was out,” Kristina said.
“[For me,] Pride gave me a feeling of absolute peace, There is so much excitement and so many good vibes that it was nearly impossible to not be happy. Last year especially, after battling so much internalized homophobia because of my time in Utah, it was a chance for me to release all of the fear and resentment I held,” Kristina recalled.
Kristina’s parents, Jill and Susan Van Houten spoke briefly on their side of Kristina’s coming out story.
“Having seen so many people go through the process of learning who they are and who they are attracted to, I am glad this wasn’t a difficult process for Kristina. As long as the person she loves loves her back and is kind and caring I am fine with it. But it is easier to interact with her partner because we have more things in common.” Jill Van Houten confessed.
Jill and Susan Van Houten have been married legally for seven years, despite having had a ceremony in 2006, have attended Pride many times before. Along with having multiple experiences, their first Pride experiences are the ones they will always remember.
For Jill Van Houten, her first pride parade was more about making a statement and showing that she and her community were not going anywhere, it was more Jill beginning to feel comfortable with herself and in her identity. “My first Pride experience was in 1985 in Des Moines Iowa. As you can imagine Iowa is not the best place to come out and my parents also didn’t know I was a lesbian.” Jill Van Houten admitted.
“Regardless, it was exciting to be able to march down a prominent city street between my girlfriend and a 6-foot drag queen and have the parade on TV, knowing that the world was watching,” Jill Van Houten explained.
“ I have Marched in Pride parades in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Dallas, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Kansas City, Portland, and Seattle, and everyone one has been a statement of ‘we are here, we are queer, get over it’”
For Susan Van Houten, her first pride was more of an empowering experience and was used to protest and create a conversation between people regarding the political climate in 1990.
“My very first pride was in Portland in 1990. There was at that time a political action group called the Oregon Citizens Alliance and they had a lot of money and their number one goal was to take away all gay rights, including workplace, adoption, and housing discrimination.” Susan Van Houten recalled.
“I was scared. I was not out to my parents or my family. I knew there was going to be TV there since we were fighting against such a big organization. I didn’t want my family to see me on TV but I couldn’t not go.” Susan Van Houten admitted.
“I decided I had to be brave, and being there with all those people were exhilarating. It was an extremely happy day for me. That pride was one of the biggest prides for that era and it was such an amazing experience to be with so many gay people, because I had never been with that many,” she said.
“I was with my church and we were waving a giant rainbow tarp flag. We encountered the Citizens Alliance with their homophobic signs, but it was still an extremely empowering experience.” Susan Van Houten continued.
The theme of religion has always hindered people because most have been under the influence that the church has actively condemned the queer community. While some church and congregations do, not all of them have. Susan has stood as an example of that while remembering an experience that happened at Pride in 1992.
“My ex and I had a blessing of our relationship (a formal engagement), and one of the radio stations in town broadcasted our blessing across the station and interviewed us. I realized that there were people out there that cared. It was, and still is, an extremely supportive and validating community.” The most common stereotype in the queer community is that most churches condemn queer people. And as everyone in the queer community fights the stereotypes, Susan was not left out of that battle.
She wanted to make sure that people saw that “Not all Christians hate gay people, and gay people don’t hate Christians. At that time I needed to be validated that being Christian and being gay was okay, and it is.” She stated. “We were fighting some of the biggest fundamentalist churches in Oregon, but we had a religious ceremony at pride with hundreds of people cheering us on.”
The first Pride stood as a remembrance of all the lives lost and the ones who now have the freedom to be themselves. Over the years following, Pride became a celebration and a demonstration of unity and to many people, Pride is about being seen for who they are. While times have changed, the meaning has not been diminished.
“Pride has changed over the last 3 decades. It used to be a statement of resistance and solidarity. It felt risky and empowering. Over time it has become more of a celebration of who we are, what we have achieved and what still needs to be accomplished. It doesn’t really feel dangerous, but that is a good thing. Pride is about making a statement,” Susan added.
“It is about both celebrating what got us here and also not settling for anything less than full equality.” Susan Van Houten concluded.
Then and now, to the Van Houten’s the meaning of pride has always been about “acceptance and love. Being comfortable with who you are, regardless of being out or not.” Kristina Van Houten said.
“Pride is about community, it is like the biggest family reunion ever. Every time I go I see people I have connected with, worked with, resisted with, and marched with.” Jill Van Houten added.
“Pride means that I’m okay being who I am. Going to pride is what really gave me that sense that I belong and that I have the right to have a good life.” Susan Van Houten stated.
Pride is the time where we don’t have to be scared to be ourselves despite having the opportunity to be ourselves every day.
Overall, Pride is,” like going home.” Jill Van Houten concluded.
If you or anyone is part of the LGBTQ+ Community and is experiencing any mental health issues or is in need of support, please visit the following sites for help.
The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.