Marcher Girl

''I want to be a marcher guy,'' the very young girl proclaimed. I remember the days when I WAS a 'marcher guy'.

May 25, 2002

A rather handsome man came into the sewing shop with his two daughters, one about seven and the other four or five. They had pale blonde hair and were well behaved. The older one took her sister to a chair and watched while their father, also blonde, but of a darker hue, got fitted. Tall and thin, he had an olive green military suit which needed taken in. Both daughters watched with some fascination, but the younger more so. One more visible aspect of military life intrigued the younger girl.

''I want to be a marcher guy,'' she said with a wide smile. She repeated herself a little further into the fitting, ''I want to be a marcher guy!''  ''Don't you mean you want to be a marcher GIRL?'', the father asked. There was no response to this.

She was busy admiring her father, in his suit, now fitted. ''You're CUTE!'', she said with an even wider smile and wide, bright eyes. This seemed to have embarrassed the father. ''No, YOU'RE cute,'' he corrected her.

She just continued to smile at him.

In that girl's future life, she just may fulfill her dreams and be a 'marcher guy'. I remember the couple of times I've marched in parades. I was rather young the first time. I don't remember the holiday exactly. It was a patriotic one, possibly Memorial Day. The chilly weather I remember suggests a day in May, for one thing.

I belonged to an organization called 'Pioneer Girls'. It was the fundamental Christian version of Girl Scouts. There were uniforms and badges.

This was the jumper and sash. I liked the blue shirtwaist dress better.

I loved my wedgewood blue uniform, with its diagonal blue sash that crossed from my right shoulder to my left hip. I loved the small red-edged rectangular badges that I'd sewn myself onto the sash. We had to do things to earn those badges, which I so proudly showed off. Some were rather evangelical in nature, but others involved other skills. One involved SEWING. It was not hard for me to meet that badge's requirements!

This parade involved the whole family. My cousin Sharmon was also marching in it, also as a 'Pioneer Girl'. It was a cold day for Spring, and we had to hide sweaters under our short sleeved costumes. Never mind, for pride, I would happily show off that blue outfit. Oh, it WAS cool marching down the streets of downtown Joliet, looking at all the bystanders as they watched while standing on the sidewalks.

I was a quite a bit older in the other parade I marched in, possibly 26 or 27. Aye, there were a few other changes as well. Some similarities, though, for it might have also been a patriotic holiday. A warm day, it COULD have been Fourth of July or an unseasonably warm Memorial day. But the differences, we shall get to these. The first difference was this parade was in the MUCH larger city of Chicago.

The other difference was the group to which I belonged. Yes, it was also a religious group, but the similarity ends there. I belonged to a church which even in 1985 had branches all over the world. Since the early seventies, the Metropolitan Community Churches have had a ministry to the disenfranchised group of people lumped together as LGBT. Yup, that would be 'queers' for those of you just woke up from a forty year nap.

I was even more excited about this parade than the one I'd participated in as a little girl. Holy Covenant, a suburban branch of MCC joined with the various branches in Chicago. We made a rather sizable group of people. Each church had its own wide colorful banner, which stretched across the street when held by two strong people at each end.

It was entirely cool marching in that huge swarm of people as we made our way down the wide streets of Chicago, tall buildings on either side. The audience was more responsive than the earlier one of my childhood march. Some smiled, some waved, some blew whistles. Some had signs of their own, with words such as proud parent of a gay son. I don't remember any negative responses that day. We marched for quite a distance, and then ended up at a large park, where many other such groups also went. I was amazed, for I've never seen so many queer people all in one place. It was thrilling to be the 'majority' that day. My memory clarifies. Gay Pride picnic, that's what it was. This parade and picnic was at the end of June, anniversary of the Stonewall uprising of 1969. I'd forgotten, for in HOT Arizona, the pride celebrations are held in October. It's just too darned hot in late June.

So it wasn't a patriotic holiday in the apple pie and flag waving Fourth of July sense. Revisiting these memories gives me a chance to set things straight. Er, pardon me, not 'straight', CORRECT.

I enjoyed both days as a 'marcher girl', and it's been lovely to bring them out of the dusty past for a bit.

© Joan Ann Lansberry
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