Pride and My Town
by Sally Basmajian
My small, scenic town is stuffed with retired folks, mostly of Anglo-Saxon or European heritage. There’s a secondary population of theatrical artists who make the rest of us feel a whole lot more vibrant, multicultural, and contemporary. I’m not sure how many of them vote, though.
In any event, we elder townspeople like to consider ourselves open-minded, and I think a lot of us actually are. For a cluster of mostly hetero seniors, we’re pretty enlightened about lifestyle preferences—but then, we were in our prime during the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll heydays, and we experienced all that when our bodies were hard and our libidos were zesty.
Nowadays, as long as our iPhones are set to maximum font size and nobody steals our parking space, we tend to be a peaceful bunch. Then, last year, somebody at a town hall meeting suggested installing a rainbow crosswalk. Wise, grizzled heads nodded. Yes, yes. Absolutely. Let’s do it.
But don’t put it in the historical district. That would not be in keeping with the muted, dignified architecture. And don’t put it too close to where I [insert just about anybody’s name here] live. All those jangling colors might upset my dog on his daily walk. Or exacerbate my vertigo. Or any number of other really logical reasons.
It took us over a year to choose a location and paint our brand-spanking new crosswalk. The location is an interesting one—near our community center to show our collective spirit but far from anyone’s actual home or business. Near a busy street but not in a prime pedestrian location for tourists. Visible but not too.
Still, our rainbow crosswalk was featured last week in our local newspapers, with photos of politicians marching across it like the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. Those of us with enough flexibility gave ourselves pats on our backs. Look at our town—we’re so woke!
I joke, of course, but as a collective, we are making progress. At least, the new crosswalk is near the daycare and the library. The area’s kids will see it daily. The elders will drive by it regularly. Each of us will be reminded that our town supports and celebrates our LGBTQ+ population.
Diversity makes us stronger. Intellectually, we get this. But we can do better. If a rainbow crossing reminds us to be respectful and accepting of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, then it’s a very good thing. But if it’s just a bunch of painted stripes that we cross without a second thought and don’t change any of our behaviors or attitudes, we still have a long, long way to go.