Ellen Yarnell, Oregon Wild Finance Manager
June is Pride month, one of my favorite months of the year. During this month the many events, parades, festivals, dances and gatherings, remind me that I am accepted as I am; loved and surrounded by the most diverse, open community of folks you can ever imagine. Many a year I have walked in the parade feeling the joy of being with my people.
But, my most joyous year has to be the year my dad walked the parade with me. An outdoorsman and farmer born in Klamath Falls in the 20s, he was fearful when I came out. His ideas about the gay community were full of stereotypes that were scary and, while he accepted me, he wasn’t so certain of my safety. But, I am his daughter, his spiritual mini-me, and we knew each other well through our many adventures in the wild. You see, I was his nature-child, the only one of the three children who shared his love of the forest. As I grew, he delighted in showing me the many ways to explore and enjoy our forests and rivers. To notice the abundance of food and wildlife we saw on our outings. He never met a trail or forest road that he didn’t want to go down. I have been forever shaped by this education.
So, I asked him to walk in the parade. And, he said yes! I planned for us to walk with a church hoping this would make him feel more comfortable. And, comfortable he was. My dad saw people his age--normal, middle-class people walking in the parade and celebrating their gay families. He saw me in my community and started to relax, and that can-do spirit that took us down many a gnarly trail and forest road clicked into gear. The day was hot, he got the group water; the crowd applauded the group’s presence, he waved and thanked them. At one amusing point, he walked over to a table of gay men who were enjoying a drink on SW Broadway asking, “Does anyone have a drink for a hot man?” They were delighted and howled. At the end of the day, he saw me in a new light and decided I was going to be okay.
Pride and the Wild, two things that connect me to my dad; and though he is long gone, I treasure all that he taught me about our precious Earth and her beauty.