I went to my first Pride like a closeted gay boy walking through the underwear section at Target—pretending to have a calm, collected countenance, but so desperately wanting to shout for joy at God’s amazing creation: the underwear model. 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 and the staff of a local LGBTQ+-affirming church that I had “same-sex attractions.” But to be honest, 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, nor the essence that sustains it.
LGBTQ+ Pride is a season when we’re called to celebrate who we are—our identities, our community’s history of strife and perseverance and our ability to thrive…just like everyone else.
But what took me the longest to learn was that I was valuable because I was part of the queer community, not because I hid myself from it.
Now, several years later as an out Bisexual gender non-conforming person—a far reach from that 26 year-old ‘supportive community member—I have learned to also 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 embrace 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 straight homophobes think of me.” You better believe that I chose to fall in love with 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 my body quivering 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 others to affirm themselves and experiencing gay love. I created a lifestyle—you bet! And I LOVE it!
How long have you spent telling yourself that you don’t measure up, that you aren’t as important, that you deserve to live a small, secretive life? 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.
Little by little, I started to live out—outwardly expressing the choices and lifestyle that tell the world just how beautiful LGBTQ+ life and love can be. 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: To Pride energetically. To Pride myself. To Pride openly. To Pride vivaciously, from the inside out. I totally resigned to coming out as a person of Pride when I fell in love with who I am.
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 a thing to attend, it is a way of being. So in this light, I wish you a happy Pride!
Don’t stop, my LGBTQ+ siblings, expressing unconditional self-acceptance—you are the messenger and your message is beautiful. In courageous love like that, you are Pride.