I went to my first Pride parade like a closeted gay boy walking through the underwear section at Target—pretending to have a calm, collected countenance, but also so desperately wanting to oogle at the beautiful models. At that parade it was important to me that people assume I was a supportive outsider, so I tried to appear as though I was a simple community member doing my civic, neighborly duty, politely waving a rainbow flag. I walked around Pride as a subdued supporter of my local LGBTQ+ community.
During that hot June in Colorado, I had already told a smattering of close friends that I had “same-sex attractions.” But as you can tell, I wasn’t yet fully okay with myself. I was teetering on the fence: could I embrace myself or simply live as a straight person, inconspicuously window shopping the LGBTQ+ life?
Then, I fully believed that to come out was to admit that I was a sexual deviant. I thought that my body—its cravings, yearnings and involuntary reactions—were a mistake for which I’d pay the price by living alone, forever.
As you can infer, I hadn’t quite yet fully understood the premise of Pride. Many of us haven’t.
A lot of us LGBTQ+ people have lived in a context that trained us to stay small, filter our personalities, question our desires, and conform, all for the sake of belonging. We have subtly swallowed messages that teach us that we are safer in our closets or hiding behind facades, and more successful when people are pleased with our personality-altering decorations and costume changes.eas
Some have become so skilled at managing the facade they are known for that authenticity feels either awkward or selfish.
But as Pride swells, I like to remember who I have become and the true potential of LGBTQ+ people.
Now, as an out Bisexual gender non-conforming person—a far reach from that 26 year-old ‘supportive community member’—I have learned to embrace my choices and my lifestyle. And this, to me, is the essence of Pride.
Choice and lifestyle have often been trigger words, weaponized language used against the LGBTQ+ community to demean and shame us. But in my world, they have become the pillars of my Pride.
Now that I fully love who I am, I want to shout from the mountain tops that I am proud of my choice to accept who I am; my choice to let myself visit a gay bar, my choice to ask God what God thought of me; my choice to say, “Its none of my business what homophobes think of me.” You better believe that I chose to fall in love with an my queer, gender non-conforming self. And dang it, I earned the ability to do so! I spent years in therapy, choosing to fight against the voices of shame and self-hatred that left me trembling in fear. For me, embracing Pride has been a long-fought-for choice.
And better yet, I created a lifestyle of which I am utterly proud. I love the home I created with my partner, Joe. I love the way we go for runs after work, the way he loves my niece and nephew. I love my career, one in which I have taken the harmful messages of transphobia and homophobia and turned them on their heads to liberate all members of the LGBTQ+ community. I love the lifestyle that I’ve found working with the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for us, and building bridges, making LGBTQ+ equality more of a day-to-day reality. Do I have a queer lifestyle? You bet! And I LOVE it!
When we embrace who we are and take up the courage to express that openly, we make one hell of a choice. When we choose to be happy, healthy, and successful we create lifestyles that lead to greater life satisfaction.
Outwardly expressing the choices and lifestyle that tell the world just how beautiful LGBTQ+ life and love can be is incredibly rewarding. In this light, coming out didn’t just mean that I told people about my sexual orientation. Coming out meant internalizing and demonstrating LGBTQ+ self-acceptance as though Pride were a verb, an action, a way of living energetically, authentically, openly, vivaciously, from the inside out.
Pride is not only telling someone about how you feel, love, or express your gender. Pride is the confidence and excitement to let others see your authenticity lived out in your everyday life. Pride rids the inclination to guess at your position in relationships because it stabilizes our identities in self-confidence and relational esteem, the roots that hold us knowing our relational value.
Walking through the booths, streets, bars, and parades at Pride celebrations are no longer events I simply window shop. I am proud to be myself. Pride is not only an event I attend once a year; it is a way of being. In this light, I want to wish you the best Pride ever!