As a young boy I might have passed out had I glimpsed the future and who I would become.
I grew up thinking I’d marry a woman and have kids. I was detrmined to create a heteronormative mirage—oops! I meant marriage—to feel normal and please my friends and family. I used to dream that my “playing house” might afford me social capital that would lead to unlimited respect and acceptance. Surely, holding hands with a woman in public, having biological children, and adopting a straight lifestyle would be easy to fabricate. That type of charade would be easy, to parade, like slipping into the great parade society already had going.
In my early 20’s, I realized that the great parade I’d imagined was actually a straight parade of one. And I couldn’t march in it forever. I couldn’t go through life in a daily lie, wondering how it felt to be authentic, all the while pretending to be straight.
During college, I cultivated a double lifestyle. I snuck out to gay bars when my frat bros and family were busy. And once the bar closed, I went to church and lived in a Christian fraternity. These two lives didn’t touch, like a picky 7-year-old who protects their peas from the gravy and mashed potatoes. Both lives were designed to be separated, and segregated there were going to stay.
In contrast, Denver Pride was an extended period—albeit a short weekend—of liberty. I left the rainbow-filled parade and the streets brimming with LGBTQIA acceptance, only to remember on my way home how it felt to restrain my personalities and filter my life. Separate lives, for now.
Thankfully, both I and society have changed.
As I skim through Instagram photos of Pride parades happening across the globe, I am pleased to know that we now live in a world where LGBTQIA people and Pride season is celebrated by businesses, governments, and religious institutions.
Seeing the rainbow flag flying in neighborhoods, shopping centers, government buildings, and places only straight allies occupy has caught me by surprise. This Pride season, I feel incredibly grateful for the love and support we, the LGBTQIA community, receive. Fifteen years ago, when I was taking baby steps out of the closet, I couldn’t have imagined we’d experience the progress we’ve achieved today.
For those of you contemplating whether or not you’ll leave the closet, a large supportive community of LGBTQIA people have walked the coming out path before you. Even more they’re waiting for you, alongside allies who love us. It takes time to find a chosen family, and even more time to grieve the given one, but you can do it. Reconciling who you are “supposed” to be with who you are is an internal journey that requires support and camaraderie. Many of us remember our steps on the worn path of coming out; you don’t have to go it alone.
And for those of us living out and proud:
My hope is that we continue to live out, expressing who we are boldly. As we continue to fight for social equality and familial acceptance, may we build a reality where Pride isn’t a short season, but a way of life.
Pride began in the courage and pain of the brave queer people at Stonewall in 1969. They weren’t only fighting for a safe public establishment;. they were also craving acceptance and respect as equal members of the New York community. And for 50 years thereafter, brave queer folks and loving allies have fought so that we might live in world where Pride never ends.
As we move through Pride month, let’s stay aware of the brave shoulders we stand on. Let’s remember the queer siblings who suffered through the AIDS epidemic, the intrepid Marsha P. Johnsons or Harvey Milks of the world, and the LGBTQIA siblings who have born health and paid social costs for our greater good.
I’m so proud of who we’ve become. I’m proud we’ve fought through suicidal moments and challenged our fears when it was louder than our courage. I’m proud that we chose to deny what felt merely correct and embraced what was true.
As I reflect over where I’ve been, I am glad that young 20-something created that double lifestyle. It wasn’t perfect, and it couldn’t last, but it helped me come out. It helped me find my footing. It helped me see that I wasn’t damaged. It helped me see just how beautiful queerness can be. It helped me be me. I’m certain many of us would say that same.
So, in honor of all those who have gone before us, let’s embrace who we are—paying gratitude with our liberty to be proudly LGBTQIA.