Written by: Evie Ladin
The last time I went to the Gay Pride March was in New York City in 1993 or so. Fresh out of college, I was working for the Gay Men's Health Crisis on their Dance-a-Thon fundraiser, and I took my mom to the march in her wheelchair -- she had MS and could no longer walk or dance. It was amazing, and so cool to bring my mom into that scene she was peripheral to. Peripheral because she never really identified as a lesbian even though she was in love with a woman, and feminist enough to leave her marriage and follow her dreams.
I grew up playing the banjo, clogging, and singing southern harmony songs from New York/New Jersey area, because my dad fell in love with the scene in the 50’s, and my mom was an international folk dance teacher, which included calling squares and learning clogging. We grew up with this music and dance, and I had no idea it would become the center of my career! When I was young my mom left our family and moved back to New York, not knowing how to support kids on a freelance dance teacher’s budget, leaving us with our more stable dad, who then opened our house to folk musicians and cloggers passing through. I think my mom was among the very first wave of women who could actually leave her family to pursue the life she wanted, and not be ostracized for it.
She told me “I always thought I’d love only one man, and I was right.” She then fell in love with a woman. We spent weekends and summers with our combined families - her partner’s three kids, and our two. As my mom was then teaching folk dance in a Physical Education department in NYC Public schools, their friends were classic PE dykes, in tube socks, playing softball. They came to visit in the summer, we all played catch, hung out at the pool and barbecued.
Through it all, the situation was fairly normal. People who loved other people, raising families, being true to themselves. I am glad I had no trauma around this upbringing, though my parents’ separation and distance left some gaps -- all in all I was loved and cared for, and our extended families had no issues with this turn of events that I know (or heard) of. My mom stayed close with her orthodox jew ex-mother-in-law until she died. Though my mom has passed, I am still in touch with her ex and my semi-step-siblings.
Loving who you love, loving what you do, and not settling for less than that. This I learned from my mother. I can’t believe we are still debating this basic human right.
I do believe this is the first time American traditional music has played such a role in LGBTQ Pride, and I am proud of the #BluegrassPride committee and the CBA for being leaders in continuing to normalize all love.