Life in the Methow Valley is not like life in your other parts of rural America, and it isn't just our beautiful landscape that separates us from the rest. In most of the small towns I have travelled to in the last few years I have noticed a distinct marginalization of the LGBT communities that dwell quietly within their population.
But here, in the Methow Valley, we celebrated today. And in this celebration, Winthrop, Washington, made a statement today: Small towns do not have small minds.
On a perfectly sunny morning, over a hundred people gathered on Riverside Avenue to march in honor of Methow Valley Pridefest. Kids hopped around on pogo sticks and rode scooters and were held by their loving parents. Rainbows wafted over the crowd and smiles gleamed from both marchers and spectators. The crowds cheered and waved and hollered as they ambled past the Tenderfoot General Store and Three-Fingered Jacks--the "oldest" saloon in the state of Washington.
These were the folks that own businesses, raise beautiful and intellectual children, run non-profit organizations and produce and support art. These were the couples who see that our chamber of commerce runs smoothly, our utilities are maintained, and our bellies are full of sweet treats. This march was not solely done by those who are gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transgender. This march was for one basic purpose: to celebrate love.
Yes, we celebrated love and companionship in all its manifestations.
Love in all its forms is tolerated, however it is not always accepted even here. Over the last year and a half, I've seen my friends blush and beam at their wives or husbands yet resist the urge to hug and kiss them in public. They walk side-by-side without holding hands when walking down the street. It's true, Washington state (specifically the more rural eastern Washington) has a lot of growth to make, but on days like this I think we get one step closer.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing I saw was my friend April and her wife Sam (who were engaged one year ago today) head the march along with their fur baby, Vinnie. And they were holding hands as a married couple. My heart damned-near exploded when I saw them so happy together. They are love.
So is Vinnie.
And then there is love like this:
My dear friend Mo makes Christianity look real good. She is one of the most supportive people within this community (or anywhere, for that fact) I've ever seen. She and her husband have served the world well with their gift of community service and love. I thank the universe/what-have-you every day for positive role models like them. Our children need people like them.
And the kids!
The children present at Methow pride were given a lesson today that all people are to be treated equally and respectfully. These are the kids who stand up for the marginalized and bullied. These are the kids who will stop a student and say, "Please don't use the word 'gay' like that. It's not a kind use of the word."
They are a gentle and hopeful nudge toward progress.
But it's not enough to dump the responsibility of progress onto these children. We must cultivate the notions of tolerance, acceptance, and respect every day through our own actions. Their progress is contingent upon ours.
And today, in the Methow Valley, our group marched step-by-step onward.