Cristina Olds: Why I Cried At Pride

Los Alamos Pride Week is June 6-12. Courtesy photo

Board Member
Friends of Los Alamos Pride

I moved to Los Alamos from Albuquerque seven years ago to live with my then-girlfriend. She was semi-closeted and so scared me back into a closet I’d left around age 19. I’ve lived as an out-loud-and-proud lesbian for all of my adult life and it was foreign to me to care what others thought of my sexual identity, but it was her town, so I followed her lead.

My full-time job was in Santa Fe, and I hung out with people there instead of integrating with the Los Alamos locals, so I didn’t know a lot of people when the first-ever Los Alamos Pride happened in 2018, four years after moving here. Despite really liking the folks I had met and called friends, I didn’t know what to expect. My perception of the LA population was that  people were conservative church-goers and soccer moms, all about family (meaning, the kids), a little aloof and distant, and straight.

As a few of us from LANL’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group set up our rainbow-flavored booth in the courtyard of Fuller Lodge, storm clouds were rolling in above us. We made plans for a possible dash into the Lodge with our flyers and posters if rain hit. And we wondered if we’d be there all alone but for the few other booths—would anyone show up? Especially with dicey weather.

The Pride celebration had an early start time, 4 p.m. on a Friday, better suited for 9-to-5 workers than for hours of debauchery including a midday parade, strolling among gay-themed crafts booths and swilling rainbow adult beverages in the hot sun,  followed by partying into the night at the main stage and local gay bars. None of these traditions were part of this awkward small town that had never held a Pride event like this before.

And then I cried. The people came early and en masse. They came with grandparents, babies, toddlers, teens, dads, and of course the moms, some of whom were my friends already.

They kept arriving and they stayed for the activities—the kids made giant bubbles with the women from the UU Church; the teens designed t-shirts with the staff of the YMCA; the little kids had their faces painted by artists with JJAB. The adults read the history placards lining the shaded sidewalks and learned about Stonewall, Martha P. Johnson, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation.

Oh, and the dragon—kids and adults alike squealed and ran to see it up close, this smoke-belching blue plastered dragon on wheels built by the fanatically dedicated Pride organizers. Because, Los Alamos.

I wiped away my tears and handed out info about the Lab group and explained what all the letters in LGBTQIA+ mean to curious parents of kids exploring those letters, and confused grandparents. I talked to 30-something queers holding hands who were also crying because they’d grown up in LA and had never seen anything like this in their town when they were young. And I met local gay men, trans folks, and all our straight allies who reveled in the beauty of the grassroots event celebrating all of us and our community.

As the clouds cleared from the sky above, I cheered on the teen karaoke drag show stars relishing their eye makeup and parading in clothes provided by Boomerang thrift store. I felt the love wash over me in waves as the youngsters, newly hatched “baby gays” laughed and played and felt free to be themselves in the historic center of this strange, government-born town.

So now I follow their lead and hold my new girlfriend’s hand as I walk around Ashley Pond, and stop to kiss her under the big elm trees. We are all forever changed because of LA Pride 2018, 2019, 2020 (virtual), and will soon celebrate again in June 2021.

I celebrate Pride in June as part of National Pride Month, but I also celebrate Pride every day of my life as an out-loud-and-proud lesbian living my authentic self in this bizarre and beautiful atomic city of Los Alamos, my home after all.