by Madeline L. Taylor, Registration Coordinator and Instructor
Pride parades of the past may have been lacking in many things: equal rights for the people marching, societal acceptance, a sense of community, even inclusion of certain groups of people. But I doubt a Pride parade has ever been lacking in glitter. When Writopia staff and teens walked in this year’s parade, our assigned block was certainly no exception to this rule. On faces, on t-shirts with embossed slogans, on banners, on the sidewalk where our writers sat. Tubes of glitter, in every color of our proverbial rainbow and then some, filled the concrete and the air. The writers chatted and laughed, dousing themselves in glitter like there was no tomorrow when they would have to wash the sparkly dust out of their hair and go back to normal life.
It’s a strange thing to experience a Pride parade with another generation alongside you. When you work with kids every day, you see their hopes and dreams and identities grow a little more each week. Sometimes this growth is evident in their own words about themselves, and sometimes it’s more shrouded, hidden in the motivations of their characters. You can marvel at their strength and mourn alongside their suffering. You can encourage, and guide, and mentor, and teach, but rarely does the undercurrent of struggle disappear completely from their ever-evolving words.
And as an adult, as a teacher, as a queer woman, it was a beautiful and surreal experience to watch these same kids in a place of joy. Even with rainbows plastered around me, I knew that there was still protest in these streets. Still struggle, and pain, and fear, and hiding, just like in the stories and the poems and the memoirs that these teens write in their workshops. But on the sidewalk, at least for today, there were a dozen teens overflowing with excitement and joy and colors and feelings and words — beautiful, breathtaking, glittery words filling pages and filling their lives.
Pride — especially this year — is a complicated experience, where you can feel tensions pushing and pulling around you. Rainbows don’t really signify the end of conflict. Pride doesn’t really mean a solution. Sometimes it feels more like a problem in itself: a slap in the face, reminding you that there is still a march ahead of you, and it moves so slowly, and there are so many barricades in the way. But you are also treading on sidewalks filled with glitter. And I took such comfort in the sight. It emboldened me: we must teach and we can fight and we will pave the way for the future so that their paths are just a little bit easier. In the meantime, though, it is glorious to see that at least one day this year, they can live their pride and play in the ethereal shimmer of glitter all around them.
Madeline Taylor is full-time instructor and Registration Coordinator at Writopia Lab’s New York City region.