If you would have asked me 18 months ago what my favorite month was I would’ve answered without hesitation that it was a tie between December and January. Selfishly I spent most of my life looking forward to Christmas in December and my birthday in January. To me, those were celebratory months – family, presents, me as the center of attention (more than usual) – what more could I ask for?! It wasn’t until June of last year that I learned there is so, so much more that I could have been asking for.
My first Pride was technically 2015. I say technically because I went out to bars and got drunk one night during Pride Weekend. I simply saw it as an opportunity to go out with friends and get *~*W I L D*~* It was a party – nothing more. The complexity and meaning behind Pride was lost on me. I had a fun weekend but it didn’t hold any more weight than any other weekend.
Pride 2016 was a pivotal moment in my life. I distinctly remember turning to my friends and proclaiming that during Pride. I knew that I was going to look back on that weekend and be able to pinpoint the moment I began living my life differently.
On June 12, 2016 a monster entered Pulse nightclub and ended 49 lives. 49 innocent lives. 49 humans. Gone.
Waking up to that news is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I woke up bushy tailed and bright eyed, ready to attend my first Pride Parade and in a split second that excitement was taken away. I am a hyper-emotional individual, yet as I began learning more and more about what occurred, I was numb and emotionless. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even process what I was reading. My social media was flooded with emotions, but I wasn’t able to wrap my head around this senseless tragedy. The one clear thought I had was, “I have to go to the parade. I will not be afraid. I’m going to the parade.”
Attending the Pride Parade was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I didn’t question it, I just followed my gut and I went. My phone was blowing up with texts and messages of love, sympathy, concern, and fear. Some of these messages were asking me not to go, some asking if I was okay, some telling me they would not be celebrating with me due to their fear and anxiety. It goes without saying that all of these acts of communication were appreciated and made me feel full. All I could personally do was get in a Lyft and get my unafraid, gay, hopeful, unapologetic, hungover ass to LA Pride. It wasn’t about the potential danger. It was about showing the enemies – the one who gunned down 49 beautiful souls and the ones who are plotting – that they couldn’t win. Love and acceptance will ALWAYS conquer.
That’s exactly what happened.
That Sunday of Pride was the most loving, accepting, and freeing day of my entire life. Thousands of strangers banded together to give hugs, compliments, and provide a sense of safety. I spent 12 hours surrounded by a community that would not back down; a community that would not spew negativity; a community that would come together as one to show the world our power. I danced. I screamed. I loved. I was unapologetically and freely myself for the first time in my 24 years.
I learned more that day than I had throughout the majority of my life. In a society that is currently and actively trying to strip humans of their given rights, I learned that I was worthy of every single one. My privilege as a white man has granted me more than I can ever comprehend but for one of the first times, I felt seen. My community, the LGBTQA+ community, proved on that day that we are stronger, more resilient, hungrier, and more visible than anyone could have imagined.
This tragedy brought back each and every insecurity I had about my sexuality growing up. Immediately I was reminded of the severe bullying I endured in middle school and high school: beer bottles being thrown at my front door, my house being egged numerous times, the word “faggot” and phrase “SAM SUCKS DICK” spray painted in bright orange on my driveway for all my neighbors to see. Things I thought I had moved past and yet, I was immediately scared again.
But that fear went away quickly as I saw first hand how strong the LGBTQA+ community is. We mourned together. We picked ourselves up together. We began educating, condemning, speaking, pushing, and fighting together. We were unified.
Thinking about the Pulse tragedy still hurts to this day AS IT SHOULD. I refuse to move past it. I can’t. It could have been any of the clubs and bars I frequent in West Hollywood and that is not lost on me in the slightest. I try to use that anguish, hurt, and fear to propel me forward. I chose to educate myself, to read as much as I could in the last year about my community’s history and difficulties. Knowledge is power and let me tell you, I am feeling powerful going into Los Angeles Pride this weekend.
Pride is important. It gives many in these communities the opportunity to be unabashedly, unashamedly themselves. I’m lucky to live in the bubble of Los Angeles where being gay is the norm to a degree. Many, many, many others do not inherently have that privilege. At Pride, though, they are able to get a taste of it. I hope everyone, no matter what their identity, gets to experience that sense of freedom even for a moment. Trust me, it’s powerful. I mean, how cool is it that a safe space has been created that praises our differences?! Rarely are people celebrated for something that is not the societal norm (PLOT TWIST: Falling on the LGBTQA+ spectrum is actually pretty fucking normal and everyone needs to accept it!) Pride is my safe haven, Pride is community, Pride is love. It’s as simple as that.
I’m proud to be the “G” on the LGBTQA+ spectrum. It’s become one of my most important identities. I am excited to flaunt that G-ness this weekend and every weekend thereafter.
Pride taught me my power. Pride showed me my worth. Pride gave me the courage to stand up and be unapologetically me.
I am visible. I am seen. I am proud.
Happy Pride, TGS!!