Pride Month 2016| Celebrating and (Re)connecting to Queerness Post Orlando

It’s June! Ya know what that means? LGBT Pride Month! Woohoo!

Pride Month is a time that always really inspires me, in the 3 years that I’ve really been aware of it. It’s a time to glitter and be gay (heh) and to boldly take pride in that which many of us have had to hide, felt ashamed of, or were bullied for during different points in our lives. Last year, when we finally won the fight for marriage equality in the US, a bunch of queer friends of mine and some of our ally friends gathered together and went out to celebrate that very night.

Me with friend and ally, Natalie ❤ As you can see, a year ago I was still doing the most.

We don’t talk about my hair back then. But we do peep the red bow tie and white suspenders, as well as the unseen teal pants and rainbow shoelaces. Class was the name of the game and I chose an outfit that helped me express my queerness in a way that made me feel confident.

Every time Pride Month rolls around, I automatically end up feeling more ready to embrace my own queerness.

And this year, that’s of particularly large importance to me.

If you’re reading this, I know you’re aware of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that injured and took the lives of many LGBT and Latinx individuals.

When this piece was first published, it was a week prior to the shooting. Now, at the time of it’s republishing on Umoja Power, it’s a week after the shooting.

Orlando is my hometown. I’m typing these words from my home, right here in the community that’s been damaged all too recently.

The attack on Pulse serves as a grim reminder that homophobia still exists, that I can still be killed just for loving who I love. I’ll never forget the day that it happened, what I was doing, how I reacted, none of it.

At 8:00 am today, I woke up, headed to the kitchen and made my morning tea. My grandma comes out of her room at 8:30 talking about a mass shooting. I, completely desensitized, mumble “another one?” as I continue to sip my tea.
Then I get the first message. I’m confused. Why wouldn’t I be okay? Did I post something on my social media that was making people think I was upset? Then I got another message. What was going on? I knew then that something was terribly wrong. I took to Facebook and was inundated with news.
A mass shooting occurred last night, in the very city I call home. It took place at a gay club, one of the only spaces where queer individuals have been told their existence is valid. Tons of shared articles and posts later, I have marked myself safe via Facebook and taken to my local blood bank to help my community in the only way I feel I can.
Even as all this is happening, I can’t forget that this is the second time I’ve woken up to news of a shooting here in Florida and realized that this easily could’ve been me. First, it was Trayvon. Now Pulse. I’m sick. I’m tired. I’m done with the ceaseless violence against people of different identities. I can be shot for my skin. I can be shot for who I love. When does the violence stop? When do we stop looking at people, recognizing that they’re not the exact same person as us, and hating them for it? I’m shaken to the core with utter disappointment.
And yet, there’s love to be found. As I type this, I look around me and see that I stand in a line full of people willing to brave this state’s heat to support their fellow humans. I see people who understand the depth of this tragedy on a basic, human level and made the decision to stand with me. Amidst all this hate, I struggle, even now, to remember the importance of this.
I know I’m not alone in that struggle. But I’m asking you to remember. Don’t forget the love. Remember that for all the hate that exists in this world, there is love. And when we act out of love, we can unite to end this hate. Act out of love, not hate, to end hate. ‪#‎FightHateWithLove‬

I sprang into action. But I never ended donating blood anyway. I went to the blood bank under two assumpions-The first was that I’d be able to donate because the deferral for men who have sex with men was lifted due to the state of emergency. The second was that my personal identity as a virgin would be sufficient for passing the deferral (of course, oral sex is still sex, even if it’s the only sex I’ve had-I wasn’t anywhere near thinking my actions through).

Afterwards, I had to log out of social media and avoid the news for two days-I was just too exhausted to handle everything coming at me at once. I even took a week long hiatus from content creating.

Yet, out of the tragedy, I’ve come to know on a deeper, more personal level the benefits of aligning ones words with their actions and acting out of love. That little #FightHateWithLove featured across my social media profiles now is a reminder of that.

Love has been a theme for me this Pride Month. Both in the larger sense of the world, and personally, in the form of self love.

Embracing my queerness feels like an extension of that self love. And another reason that’s important to me this year is because I’ve felt a strange distance from my queer identity during it. I’ve come to realize how little I know about the history of the queer community-I didn’t know about the Stonewall riots until outrage over the recent film about the event occurred.

“Pay it No Mind”-Marsha P. Johnson

I’ve also learned about the concept of intersectionality-which, while I love it, kinda shook my world in terms of how I viewed my own identity. Prior to now, I’ve never really taken the time to examine how the intersection of other parts of my identity creates an experience for me as a queer individual that isn’t necessarily the same as other members of the queer community.

So with all that in mind, I’ve set out to take on this Pride Month with a specific goal: to (re)connect to my queerness.

I’ve devised several different ways to attempt this, but a large one has been creating a bunch of hella queer content all month long. This piece and the video below are the start of that.

This is a video I never really thought I’d make, to be frank, because it features me coming out for a second time-I’m genderqueer.

My queer self acceptance journey is a constant one and every Pride Month feels like an opportunity to learn how to love myself a little bit more.

In the video, I talk for a while about how I came to realize this about myself, but then I get into how I’m going to try to (re)connect with that part of myself this Pride Month. Y’see, I think that the celebratory part of Pride Month instigates the whole process of (re)connection.

It’s like one of my favorite activists, Franchesca Ramsey, says:

For marginalized people to say, I’m going to love myself in spite of a world that says I shouldn’t love myself is a revolutionary act.

I firmly believe that what she says there to be true. And I totally think Pride Month does this in a huge way. I mean look no further than Pride parades, carnivalesque celebrations of living bravely and boldly in ones truth as a queer individual, regardless of what society has to say about it-can you tell I wanna go to a Pride event SUPER BADLY??

Another large space where I see queerness celebrated is LogoTV, the television network hosting RuPaul’s Drag Race. You see, my roommate is a drag queen (check her out YES GAWD) and within the past year, he’s shown me the world of drag. I’d been aware of drag prior to now, but never really made much effort to understand it beyond simply wearing clothing of the gender opposite yours according to our society’s gender binary.

It’s so much more than that.

Through seeing my roommate perform and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with him, season 8 being my first full season, I’ve come to really appreciate drag as an art form. The show is a celebration of all the different ways queerness affects both gender and sexuality. And because of it, I’ve also begun to see gender itself as a performance. This idea, with the influence of other concepts, like clothing having no inherent gender, and an admiration of certain role models of mine like Miles Jai and Jaden Smith, slowly but surely worked to challenge how I thought about my own gender, and I began to experiment with my gender presentation as a way to try to connect to that. From my hair, to my clothes, I began to live in the question.

Now I’m out, and I feel as though I owe that to drag, my own willingness to question myself, my desire to (re)connect to my queerness, and my focus on going through the whole process in a loving way.

Celebrating queerness gives queer individuals a way to embrace themselves more fully, to (re)connect more deeply to their queerness, and to practice self love more strongly.

So, in the spirit of doing those things, I decided to start creating makeup looks and posting pictures of them on my social media.

This look is actually inspired by my YouTube intro! Check out more looks on my Facebook page-follow me to see when I add new lewks :p

It’s a small thing, but I’ve become increasingly more intrigued in makeup as I’ve gone on this journey of self exploration, and I bet, like with everything else I’ve done to experiment with gender expression, it will help me learn more about myself.

I might as well celebrate this exploration to practice some self love and connect with this new side to my queerness while I’m at it, right?

This is blog post is part of a series I’m making about gender, sexuality, and queerness throughout Pride Month. Be sure to follow me here and subscribe to me on YouTube, as I’ll be uploading content on these topics there as well. Finally, like my Facebook page to see all of the makeup looks I’ll be posting this month to show my pride. Happy Pride my Buddies ❤
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Our community only has one rule: Always remember to love and encourage yourself! Never forget it :3 #FightHateWithLove
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