In 1981 my mother was a newlywed and expecting her first child (me) so as a ward Homemaking activity, my mom along with some other women from the ward “done a quilt” (as my Utah grandmother would say).
Young newlyweds are often poor and my parents were no exception. When my mom went to the fabric store she bought the cheapest fabric she could for the quilt: a few yards of bright yellow, orange, red, blue and green. She liked the bright colors and sewed strips of fabric into a rainbow quilt.
“I thought bright colors would be good for a baby. Plus the song from the Muppet Movie was still a big hit,” she told me.
This quilt, created with such love and anticipation by an expecting mother, adorned my bed throughout most of my childhood. It has been folded up in a box in her closet for many years but she recently brought it over to me.
“If I had only known!” she said while we both laughed and unfurled what is really a very large LGBT pride flag of a quilt.
Unknown to my mom in 1981 was that the LGBT pride flag had been created and flown in the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco in 1978. The pride flag has gone through a few variations over the years but today the flag resembles the quilt my mom made for me, minus the purple, but in the exact same color sequence.
“Maybe someday it will go on your own child’s bed,” she said. And maybe it will.
When I was about 11 or 12 I got a new bed, new sheets, and a new bedspread. The rainbow quilt went into a closet about the same time I realized I was in a closet of my own. From that moment on I ran away from rainbows because they represented what I most feared about myself, a part of me so shameful and so wrong that no one could ever know. My church told me I was a terrible sinner (even though I hadn’t done anything), other adults in my life said unkind things about gay neighbors they wouldn’t remember saying but that a young gay boy’s ears are attuned to hear. I faced my fear when I was 23, embraced my inner rainbow, and have never regretted my decision.
Rainbows are are not the exclusive property of the LGBT community, the symbol has been used by many cultures for many centuries. To me and the culture I grew up in rainbows represent unity, peace, and mystery. While sitting on a log in a little marsh, Kermit the Frog waxes philosophically about rainbows in the song from the Muppet Movie, the same song my mom sang while she stitched together my rainbow quilt. It’s a song about the mysteries of life, the wonders of the world, and about dreams. Kermit disagrees with the people who say rainbows are merely illusions. He doesn’t have the exact answer, but he’s optimistic that he’ll find it. Kermit sings about hearing an inner voice calling his name and telling him he can do big things because the world is open to him and to endless possibilities. Like Kermit, I heard a voice calling me in the same way to be who I was supposed to be.
We will find the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.