At What Age Should You Attend a LGBT Pride March?

Teen Atheist is 17. Turning 18 in less than a week (happy early birthday!). There’s an LGBT Pride March in her area that she wants to attend as a supporter.

Her mom won’t let her.

I approached my mother and asked her if I could go. She gave me a firm “No,” explaining that I was too young to attend such an event.

“Why am I too young?”

“Well, there’s the whole thing about gay marriage, and gay rights…issues that even some adults can’t understand, let alone a child like you. Besides, if you’re only there for show, you’re going to look like an idiot.”

As a straight guy who has attended events just like these in support of equal rights for LGBT people, the mom doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

What does that comment even mean? What’s there to understand? Gay people deserve the same rights as everyone else. There are people out there (almost always Christian) who oppose it. They are wrong. We are right. That’s it.

Easy, no?

I’m also a bit curious why Teen Atheist (TA) asked her mom in the first place. I’m pretty sure she knew what answer was coming.

TA responds:

Of course I understand gay rights, why the fuck do you think I’m going? To look fabulous, or scout for the perfect Gay BFF? This march is about anti-discrimination, which has always been my biggest cause. LGBT people deserve as much respect as everybody else.

It’s precisely people like TA, who think this way, who need to attend these events. The LGBT community needs the support of girls like her.

She poses a couple questions to readers:

1. Is my mother right? … am I too young to attend this march?

2. If not, how can I convince my mother to let me go?

No, you’re not too young. I don’t think there is an age too young to understand that all people deserve equal rights and we should oppose those who would try and prevent that from happening.

I say that this is a case where you don’t need to tell the truth. Get a friend, get a ride, give an excuse to the parental units and go. The mom doesn’t need to know your whereabouts. You’re not doing anything wrong.

What do you think?


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    Wow, Hemant, bad advice.

    If Teen Atheist wants to prove that she’s old enough, then sneaking out behind her parents back is just about the worst thing she could do. Her best bet would be to sit her parents down and explain to them that she does understand the issue, and exactly how she feels about it and why.

    TA,
    While it is important to show support to the GLBT community, it’s also very important (and more relevant to your life, I might add) to show your parents that you are responsible, smart, and caring enough to want to do this for the right reasons. Asking the questions that you asked shows that you are old enough to make this decision; discussing it with your parents as an adult will show them the same.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Joe — If the parents would be willing to listen to a reasoned argument, I doubt this would be an issue in the first place.

    I’m thinking most parents who wouldn’t want their child attending this sort of event don’t know much about why people attend it at all. They see the word “gay” and run like hell.

    I think your solution is an ideal one, but it’s not very practical.

    I’m all for a straight teen discussing with her parents why she should attend this rally. But that’s a long term discussion, probably not something that will change their mind immediately.

    For what it’s worth, my parents and I have a very good relationship. But trying to explain to them why I work with atheist groups is futile. They’re just not interested in my reasons.

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write about my dilemma, Hemant, and I appreciate the advice. And thank you also, Joe M, for your input.

    I will probably be attending the march no matter what my parents say, but I will take the time to tell them, “I’m still going, and this is why…”

    I’m also a bit curious why Teen Atheist (TA) asked her mom in the first place. I’m pretty sure she knew what answer was coming.

    I had an idea of what she would have said, but I didn’t expect a flat-out “No.” Anyway, I still need permission from my parents whenever I go outside the house unaccompanied. Bad things happen when I break curfew.

  • Mriana

    1. Is my mother right? … am I too young to attend this march?

    2. If not, how can I convince my mother to let me go?

    1. I think your mother is wrong, Teen atheist. Dead wrong. That’s like saying you are too young to learn about sex- of any sort, which is not true either. I also think she maybe prejudice too.

    2. Sounds like your mother has her mind made up, so I have no clue what you could do. IF you take Hemant’s advice and something happens, your parents aren’t going to know where you are to contact you (unless you have a cell) and have a double worry. Regardless of whether or not something happens and they find out where you went, you’re going to be in trouble. Grounding will be the least of it probably and the best you could hope for. At worst, which I hope I’m misjudging, if they are prejudice, you might be getting angry, possibly hateful, questions, maybe accusations even, and hearing about it for a long time to come.

    It all depends on what you are willing to risk experiencing from and discovering about your parents. If you’re lucky a few angry words referring to you disobeying and “You’re ground until” said time is all it will be. Hopefully you don’t find out your parents are prejudice bigots too.

  • http://www.cogspace.com/ Katie Molnar

    I’ve never much understood the idea of gay issues somehow being inappropriate discussion around children. That seems to be the general consensus in my mostly-conservative town.

    The focus of their misunderstanding is that they perceive the gay rights movement as somehow inherently sexual, and by extension inappropriate for minors. Absolute nonsense, of course, but that is the way their frail minds wrap the issue.

    What the people in question are being discriminated against for is utterly irrelevant. Discrimination is horrible and wicked and must be expunged for our society to move forward.

    Sorry if it offends anyone’s delicate sensibilities, but the greater good of human society is a bit more important than someone’s shut-in parents’ moronic prejudices and failure to cope with reality, and such people deserve no respect.

    -k8

  • monkeymind

    I think my daughter was 2 or 3 when she first went to the gay pride parade here in Santa Cruz. In fact, we go just about every parade or street fair going- its cheap entertainment! The Pride event always has a nice fun atmosphere and all the folks down from San Francisco give our sleepy hippy town a cosmopolitan feel. It’s a chance to see the fabulous SF Gay Pride Cheerleaders, and now my daughter can wave to here Kindergarten teacher and some of her friends as they march by.

    why the fuck do you think I’m going? To look fabulous, or scout for the perfect Gay BFF?

    Well, it’s not like that there’s a lot of that going on at these events :-) Why not just confront that fear “Mom, are you afraid I’ll be seduced by someone?” Maybe you could find a nice lesbian couple with young kids you could go with and that might reassure your parents.

  • Jen

    Teen Atheist, as a recently-out-of-teenhood-non-parent, I have to say, break all the rules and go. I used to work with a fascinating woman. She grew up in the 60s, and as a teenager, she went into Chicago and handed out papers promoting the Black Panthers. She was in on the fight for civil rights and women’s rights. She protested the Vietnam War. She was there, and she is such an interesting person to talk to. Anyway, the point is that she went ahead and broke all the rules about what nice white girls from good towns were supposed to do. When you are talking to young women just out of college in thirty years, are you going to want to tell them that you did nothing for gay rights? This is a fight that is as important as the ones my coworker worked for.

    Your mother is a bigot. Plain and simple. She may be a nice person, and she might be a killer soccer mom and a fantastic business person and a great Monopoly player, but she is still being a bigot. I understand; my mother would have said the same thing to me if I wasn’t a self-centered little jerk at your age. I still love her, but I don’t look to her for moral guidance.

    I am of the belief that it is more important to break unjust rules in a peaceful way then to stick to ones that are unfair. I like the idea of peacefully protesting, though I think that if you get caught and punished, that is fair. I wouldn’t judge you for choosing to avoid punishment while under your parents’ roof, though. Pretty much every time someone underage or otherwise still supported by their parents comes on this blog and asks if they should tell their parents something, I say that it is better to lie till you can get away than to face the consequences of being who you are while being supported by people who just don’t get it, and may punish you for it.

    To sum up: I think you should go for it. You may get in trouble, and only you can decide if the punishment is worth the fight. Remember, you are a year away from being able to go to whatever the hell you want all the time. I also doubt your mother will see the light, so I would lie about where I was rather than try to reason with her.

    Anyway, I still need permission from my parents whenever I go outside the house unaccompanied. Bad things happen when I break curfew.

    Really? At seventeen I was allowed to go out and my parents weren’t terribly concerned about where I was going, as long as I was home by curfew. Of course, I also never tried to go anywhere interesting, and they usually knew where I was.

  • Claire

    Is my mother right? … am I too young to attend this march?

    Anyway, I still need permission from my parents whenever I go outside the house unaccompanied. Bad things happen when I break curfew.

    Actually, at a week short of 18, I would think you were too old to be asking that question – if you were an American teen, but you’re not (I checked your blog). Is it standard for an 18 year old to need her parent’s permission to leave the house where you live? I really don’t know enough about your culture to feel up to giving advice.

    For what it’s worth, from your writings, you sound plenty mature enough to go. I would never have guessed you were only (almost) 18.

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Claire and Jen: It’s a really conservative country, and by these standards, my parents are already relatively liberal for even allowing me to go out unaccompanied at all. Most of my friends don’t have the same liberty. I think these rules still apply until I start living on my own (ah, I can’t wait).

  • Jen

    Hmmm, and upon reading TA’s site, I see she isn’t American. Sorry about assuming you were, TA. In other countries, that behavior might make total sense.

  • Chas

    TA,

    I’m a parent of younger children than you, so I might be over-reading subtext here, but I think your mom may be afraid. Whether bigot or not, she has little experience with any kind of gay community, and she may consider it a big risk to let her daughter go.

    However, since you’ve already brought it up to her, going now on your own will be wrong and may damage what I hope is generally a good relationship with your mother. So I say, turn the table on her a little bit:

    Invite her along.

    Say let’s go together and try to have a better understanding of gay rights and marriage, etc. Do it to have an open dialogue, do it for family unity and do it so, if it is for whatever reason “dangerous,” she’s there to see no harm is done to a person she loves very much.

    Who knows, maybe it will open her eyes up a bit. Hope this helps!

  • Allison

    TA, I really think it depends on the atmosphere where you are. Normally (as a mom) I kind of agree with Mriana — you are definitely old enough to go to such a thing, but you do have to be willing to live with the consequences if you break your parents’ rules on this if you do so. OTOH, not knowing what country you’re in, your mom may be concerned for your safety and just kind of embarrassed to admit it and/or she may be concerned about what might happen later on if you were seen at the rally and it became assumed later on that you may be a lesbian in hiding and that might have some real negative repercussions. Moms have a real tendency to worry even in situations where their kids will probably be okay. In either of those contexts the “if you’re only there for show….” bit makes a lot of sense because she’d feel that you’re really putting yourself on the line for what she might interpret as a passing interest.

    Do be careful if you do go! When I was in college I participated in plenty of rallies and the people who were planning illegal activities during the rallies were pretty open about it, making clear when people who didn’t want to be involved in that part should leave so as not to put themselves in danger of being arrested.

    Best of luck whatever you decide! It’s your decision, really, none of the rest of us can make it for you.

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    “Joe — If the parents would be willing to listen to a reasoned argument, I doubt this would be an issue in the first place.

    I’m thinking most parents who wouldn’t want their child attending this sort of event don’t know much about why people attend it at all. They see the word “gay” and run like hell.

    I think your solution is an ideal one, but it’s not very practical.

    I’m all for a straight teen discussing with her parents why she should attend this rally. But that’s a long term discussion, probably not something that will change their mind immediately.

    For what it’s worth, my parents and I have a very good relationship. But trying to explain to them why I work with atheist groups is futile. They’re just not interested in my reasons.”

    Hemant,

    The real win here is not being able to attend the event, it’s the potential for TA to be able to make the attempt to explain her views and make her parents understand the type of adult she is growing up to be.

    I think TA came up with the real ideal solution, tell her parents that she is going to go and explain why. At least she will be giving her parents the benefit of the doubt and taking a more mature outlook on the situation.

    I’m sorry, but advising her to lie to her parents and just go with no explanation will simply cause more problems for her than the alternative, as it would be a complete slap in the face to her parents which would, in all probabliity, be punished.

  • stogoe

    as it would be a complete slap in the face to her parents which would, in all probabliity, be punished.

    Sometimes parents need a good slap in the face. Especially when they’re being bigoted assholes.

    Respect is earned; your parents don’t seem to deserve any from where I sit.

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    Insulting the girls parents… nice! Do you have any Yo’ Mama jokes to go with that or are you tapped for childishness today?

  • Julie

    Wow, living in a small predominately Christian Third World country, I don’t know if I would step out to support gay rights as a teenager. I’ve marched a lot for gay rights, but isn’t life a little different here in the US? I mean, since your blog doesn’t say where you’re from, can we really give you good advice, TA? We don’t know what culture you’re dealing with. How are people going to react if they find out you went to this march? Is your mother actually protecting you from possible harrassment? Is there serious gay bashing where you live? Are you putting your safety in jeopardy to attend this event? If it was in the US, I’d still be a little leery of telling you to get on your parents’ bad side, but at least I’d know you’d have a blast at the march and you wouldn’t really be stigmatized for being there. (At least not where I live.)

    Don’t get me wrong. In theory, your mother is absolutely wrong about everything. She’s wrong to be a Catholic, really, IMO. You’re right. She’s wrong. You seem smart. She’s backwards. OK. But does she have your best interests at heart in some way? Can’t you wait until you live on your own to go to a march?

  • Stephanie

    When I was your age, I lied to my parents, hopped a Greyhound thanks to NOW sponsorship and headed to Washington to march in at a Pro-Choice Rally. It was a very hard thing to do, and guilt about lying combined with resentment that I had to do so made the trip that much more arduous.
    Being dishonest to family feels horrible because you have grown up respecting their beliefs as your own until you were old enough to make your own decisions. But you can respect someone and not agree with them. And sometimes, these things must be done. Standing up for what you believe is part of becoming an adult. Standing up for what you believe against those you love is often the rite of initiation. I wish you the best in your endeavors.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    The mom’s the mom and until the daughter is 18, she calls the shots. I would probably go with her, myself, but it’s not my call.

    (The best Halloween I ever spent was at the Castro one year. Wild and fun! Loved the contest for the Queen of the Castro. There was one fellow dressed up as Elizabeth I that would have made Kate Blanchett gasp in jealousy.)

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Insulting the girls parents… nice! Do you have any Yo’ Mama jokes to go with that or are you tapped for childishness today?

    I don’t mind. I’ve said far worse things about them. :P

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Wow, living in a small predominately Christian Third World country, I don’t know if I would step out to support gay rights as a teenager.

    That’s why I think it’s more important for me to go; the gays, lesbians and transgendered people in this country need as much support as they can get because they’re a smaller crowd.

  • http://thisislikesogay.blogspot.com Duncan

    Hm. This reminds me of something I read about Dear Abby (the advice columnist, in case anyone doesn’t know) years ago. She said that if someone asked her something like “Should I have pre-marital sex?” or “Should I attend an orgy?” she would tell them no. She told an interview that this was because if they had to ask someone’s permission, they weren’t ready for it. Which strikes me as quite reasonable. And that was my first thought when I saw Teen Atheist’s dilemma and question. If you have to ask, you aren’t ready to go.

    So, Teen Atheist, especially since you have told us you live in a conservative country, and you are bound by pretty strict curfew limits, I would say you should stay home — this year. I’m a gay man myself, *and* an atheist, and I do think it’s great that you feel strongly about injustice. You have a good point that your presence would be valuable, but under the circumstances, they’ll have to get along without you this year. So, go next year, or whenever you are in a position to make this decision for yourself. Meanwhile, work on your mother. Talk to her reasonably. Introduce her to your gay friends if you can. I had similar problems with my mom at your age, by the way. She kept changing the rules. We had some squabbles over that. I moved out on my own at 19, not in a huff, just to be closer to college.

    As for your basic question, “At what age should you attend a GLBT Pride March?” I would say that it could be at any age, and US pride parades include all ages, including infant children of GLBT parents. In this context, we could also ask at what age it’s okay to tell your parents that GLBT pride is boring and stupid, and you’re not going to go, and they can’t make you. 8-)

  • Chaim Krause

    Teen Athiest,

    “I still need permission from my parents whenever I go outside the house unaccompanied.”

    I’d like to say something, oh, I don’t know, educated, but all that comes to mind is ,”WTF?” You’re how old? I’m a smart ass so I would say something like, “You think Jesus had a curfew at age 18?” to my parents, as I was walking out the door to attend the march. And I’d probably never go back “home” (and I emphasize the quotes) again. Move out. It sounds like you have a better grip on reality than your (well meaning) parents.

    [Edited to add] I have read some more comments and see you are not part of the “western world”. I don’t believe in “cultural relativism”. If women don’t have equal rights that’s not fair, no matter where you live. If being 18 and still being considered a child is “relative” to anything I would say it is relatively ignorant to think so. How do you think things are ever going to change if everybody just stays home at age 18 instead of changing things?

    The only “rational” reason I could think of not going was mentioned by Duncan –”[Dear Abby] told an interview that this was because if they had to ask someone’s permission, they weren’t ready for it.”

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Standards are different in this country, Chaim Krause. My friends actually envy me for being allowed out of the house on my own at all. I’m known as the “independent one.” (Mind you, we do go to the mall a lot, but they’re usually driven there by the parental units.) Crazy, eh? Breaking curfew results in getting the third degree on “You could have been raped/mugged/killed/lying in a ditch somewhere!”

    And yes, I can’t wait to move out.

    [Edited to add] I have read some more comments and see you are not part of the “western world”. I don’t believe in “cultural relativism”. If women don’t have equal rights that’s not fair, no matter where you live. If being 18 and still being considered a child is “relative” to anything I would say it is relatively ignorant to think so.

    It goes back to that old saying, “As long as you’re living under my roof…”

    How do you think things are ever going to change if everybody just stays home at age 18 instead of changing things?

    People go to college and move out, that’s how.

    ETA: Perhaps our standards may also differ because my friends and the people I went to school with are all middle- to upper-class (read: sheltered).

  • Chaim Krause

    Teen Athiest,

    I spent some time last night thinking more about what I wrote, and I haven’t changed my opinion, but I think I should add something that I didn’t explicitly state. It too is an old saying, “You must pick and choose your battles.” Although equal rights for women, and the age at which one becomes an adult are not “relative”, the time and place to do something about it is relative. One should not “win the battle only to lose the war”.

    You obviously have an enlightened view of The World and your world. I wish you the best of luck on your internal and external struggle.

    P.S. Maybe there is some other way you can participate in the spirit of the march without attending? Maybe some of the other readers may have some ideas. One I can think of is to continue to do what you are doing, and that is spread the word. Maybe by your online efforts you may convince a dozen people to go that wouldn’t have gone otherwise. That may even promote the cause more than attending yourself.

  • Julie

    Julie: Wow, living in a small predominately Christian Third World country, I don’t know if I would step out to support gay rights as a teenager.

    TA: That’s why I think it’s more important for me to go; the gays, lesbians and transgendered people in this country need as much support as they can get because they’re a smaller crowd.

    Absolutely, but is your safety in danger? Seriously. Even in NY and LA, the fundies show up at gay pride with their silly signs, but it’s not really threatening. But is there going to be some threat to your physical safety? If so, I’d say stay home this year and go next year.

    If there’s no threat to your safety, then I’d still be a little wary of telling you to go. I kind of agree that if you still have to ask, then you might just have to accept the reality for now that you’re not ready to do everything you want to do in life. And that’s why having an adult mind in a teenage body totally fucking blows. I remember, sort of. To be honest my crazy hippy parents let me go anywhere and let my boyfriend spend the night, so maybe I never really had to deal with any nonsense. Maybe that’s why I would be wary of telling you to disobey your folks; if my parents didn’t let me do something, there was usually a reason that involved my safety. So even if your mom is totally on the other side of the belief spectrum, she’s still your mom and probably doesn’t want to see you get bashed over the head with a “God hates fags” sign, you know?

    I’m surprised I’m the only one bringing up safety concerns. I mean, people who hate gays are serious motherfuckers. Let’s face facts. They can get violent and FAST.

    If I’m off base about your physical well being, then my apologies. But I think you need to save that brain for greater things–stay away from rock throwing dogmatic freaks.

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Then they would have succeeded in their mission to scare people off.

    In any case, I went to the parade. :D It was great!

  • Mriana

    That’s great. I’m glad you had fun. :)

  • Richard Wade

    TA, could you give us a follow-up about the results of your going to the parade? What did you learn or what were your impressions at the parade? What were the consequences and lessons you got from your parents by going? What was the method by which you went, such as successfully negotiating permission at the last minute, or saying you were going anyway in defiance, or sneaking there without your parents’ knowledge? Tell us about how you have grown from this struggle.

  • http://teenatheist.wordpress.com/ Teen Atheist

    Richard: Already have. :)

  • Pingback: What I did for love (TA at the gay pride parade) « Diary of a Teenage Atheist

  • Mriana

    Thanks for sharing that, TA. I’m so glad you managed to get your parent’s permission about going, finally. I think it is not only a huge step for your parents in treating you as an adult, but also a gain in your relationship with them. I find this a good thing and it kept you from having bigger headaches with your parents. :) Great move on your part!

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Update on Teen Atheist Attending LGBT Pride March

  • Jim

    I am a Christian. This is not an easy question. The age would depend on the person. Pride needs to move into a conservative area. Parties are fun but we need to have better values as a group. We need to show these values at Pride.

  • Lisa

    I don’t think a child is ever too young to attend. My sister and brother-in-law take their children every year to show their support. My nephew is currently 10 and my niece is 15. My nephew always manages to make a friend there who is a member of the LGBT community. This is what the Pride Parade is about. It is all encompassing and isn’t just for “family”.


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