June 1994: We are in Manhattan visiting family, and decide to head downtown to visit a street fair in the village for an outing. It turns out to be an unusual outing, with amazing people-watching. Cheer and goodwill on the streets. Lots of carefully shaped beards and men holding hands — openly, not tentatively — enjoying the booths, sharing ice creams and laughter. My three-almost-four-year-old son stares at a very tall, very flamboyant transvestite for awhile, who gives him smiles so, he asks, "Are you a Mommy or a Daddy?" S/he is charmed and they sit there for awhile, while I believe the child gets given some simple, age-appropriate, information on intersex.
We wander around some more, browsing the groups and eating fry bread and smoothies. It is one of a friendliest, most accepting, least frantic street fairs I've ever been to in New York. I only figured out after an hour in, that this was the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion celebration.
One of my favorite "mental snapshots" (Oh, I wish I'd had a camera) is of my European mother-in-law in a walking suit worthy of Gertrude Stein, perky hat and all, flanked by two young lesbians with safety pins in their ears, shorty shorts, combat boots and crayola-colored short hair, trying to persuade her to join the Alice B. Toklas parade that afternoon.
My heterosexual family was more than welcome, accepted as part of the celebration of something good and healthy, unlike other local celebrations in New York City, where we were clearly interlopers or "marks." It was a model of what safe community should be like. It's heartbreaking that this level of open community and kindness can only still take place on special occasions and in protected enclaves.