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What Pride Means to Me

Sooooo, yeah, in this post, I’ll be talking about being gay. If you don’t like me talking about…well, that, then you’ll probably want to sit this one out. Or not. Who knows? Maybe some of you are gluttons for self-punishment.

With the end of June upon us with such a startling swiftness, and Pride Weekend over and done, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on the overwhelming support from the Cities, the various subcultures of the GSM community, and the rainbow flags in window displays or proudly flapping in the breeze. Pride Weekend, like the parade itself, passed by in fabulous flash, and the following days of reflection have been tinted with a mild sadness. All that glitter, fashion, attitude, and the glorious array of colors, each indicating a different aspect of the GSM community were assembled into a kaleidoscopic swirl I hadn’t experienced until then. I didn’t realize how much I wanted the weekend to continue, but I suppose I wouldn’t have reminisced as fondly as I do now. It wouldn’t have been such a blast without my two friends Zach and Sarah. They made up the majority of my first Pride Weekend, and I look forward to our next one. Pride 2019. It’s gonna be even more fabulous.

Max Templeton/Unsplash.com

Conversely, in the couple weeks preceding the first of June, before the GSM festivities swept the Cities, I’ve been reflecting on my own present state. It has been over six years since I came out to my parents and my oldest brother; I didn’t officially come out to my other older brother and older sister since my parents went ahead and told them, and over a half decade later, it seems like yesterday when I had that pivotal phone conversation on that chilly February evening. As the cliched saying goes, a lot has changed since then, both in the grander stage we call The World and in my personal sphere. In various ways, I’ve grown, and in other ways, I still have plenty of growing to do. There’s so much I haven’t experienced yet. I haven’t had a boyfriend, I haven’t been to Canada, I haven’t seen Bjork in concert, I haven’t bought a car, I don’t own a house, and…actually, that’s pretty much it. Huh.

As colossal as those life monuments seem, however, I’m more intrigued by the little things: people, relationships, relationships with friends, family, nature, sexuality, interactions, emotional correspondence, and spirituality. Though rather loaded topics by themselves, I think we sometimes overlook them, undermine and minimize them to insignificant remnants. That isn’t to undermine the larger monuments in life. I’m excited to have attended my first Pride parade, and I await the moment I experience my first committed relationship or buy a car. I suppose what I’m getting at is my reflections are a part of discovering who I am as an individual. Moments, experiences, success, and failure — it seems that’s all my life is made of, held together by skin and muscle. I want to take a step back from my interactions and see myself as the person I am and want to be, almost like I’m disassembling and examining the components that make up who I am.

And that’s where Pride comes in.

Growing up in the church, we, that is my home congregation, were constantly encouraged to be in tune with ourselves as children of God, reflect on our journey and be in sync with our Lord and Savior, all of which may or may not be interchangeable. We were cautioned about the dangers of being swept into the hoi polloi of this world. If we weren’t careful, we might lose sight of who were are and how we got here, wherever Here is. I’ve applied that same mentality with my queer identity. I want to remind myself at every opportunity to keep in sync with my growth, to remain aware of where I want to go and how to get there. A few examples include my writing, solitary meditation, and casual conversation, the latter having recently intrigued me since it doesn’t involve staring at a blank screen or notepad for hours. I always adore a good storyteller, someone who draws you in with his/her words, and I want to share my stories and possibly some personal experiences with anybody who wants to listen. I’d like to think I can share these stories through other methods besides printing or publishing. Like casual conversation, spontaneous trips to lakes or other states, sharing aspirations. In a way, I’m practicing my own storytelling skills while reminding myself I’m still “writing” my life each day.

I want to keep growing, is what I’m getting at. I want to remain in tune with my spirit yet also be spontaneous, and Pride seems to be my annual spiritual checkup.

A common misnomer I’ve seen and heard is that Pride is merely a festival, an excuse to dress scantily and offend those pearl-clutching Christian fundamentalists as they do their best to bludgeon us with their Bibles and Jack Chick Tracts. I suppose, to an extent, that’s true. Sometimes the best way to get someone’s attention is to do something a tad transgressive albeit for the sake of evoking any reaction. However, if I were to have a good reason to antagonize the Ann Coulters and the Kevin Sorbo-es of the Christian masses, it would be to open a discussion. Maybe start with something light so as not to nullify my intentions; transgression, in this sense, can sometimes be too subtle and easily lose its message through negative reaction. As I’ve stated ad nauseam, my biggest gripe with the Church was this collective attempt to ignore the GSM community and only acknowledge its existence for the purpose of condemning them or belittling its plight. And to be fair, the GSM community is as guilty of doing the same to the Christian community. Like any divide, the us vs. them mentality is a difficult habit to avoid. What more can we expect aside from dissent and discrimination? Yet, how better off would we be if we dismantle the barriers and get to know each other?

That’s why I wish my Christian friends and family actually attend a Pride parade or reach out to the community. Read up on the GSM’s fruition, how it has strived to have its humanity recognized. We don’t necessarily have to agree on everything; we should at least understand each other and know the motivation behind each other’s plight. I want, more than anything, to tear down this wall between us, yet there are times I wish my friends and family would try as well. Not to say they haven’t (Krista, Rachel, Luke, Samantha, and Mariella are just a handful. You guys rock, and I love you dearly.), but as with my experience, it’s easy to withdraw and clasp onto presumptions and stereotypes and not reach out and hear the opposing side. Maybe if they saw Pride firsthand, that might add dynamic to the Grand Picture. Pride isn’t merely an excuse to dress in our most scandalous outfits or hurl dildos and condoms at the masses. In fact, I don’t even perceive Pride as a parade and only a parade. It’s more internal than that. It’s my opportunity to show the world how unafraid I am to be me, that I’m more than a person raised in the church, more than just gay. I’m Hispanic. I’m not fluent in Spanish. I can talk your ear off on my theories of exploitation films in the early 1980s. I loooooove reading and writing. My favorite food is sushi. One of my biggest pet peeves is whistling. I could go, but I won’t because it’s fairly clear what my point is. My personal nay-sayers would know this about me if they dismantled their barriers, and I would know them personally if I dismantled mine. It starts with effort. It starts with a handshake or a salutation. It starts with a relationship, and most important of all, it starts with us acknowledging our humanity.

Pride reaffirms my will to live and fight for my right to be me. Whenever I get discouraged from news of another trans victim or misappropriation of justice, I read up on my GSM history and remind myself that while anger is necessary to survive, a life of nothing but anger is as toxic as a life of homophobia. There must be a balance, and I sustain that balance through comfort in my community and sharing my struggles. I seek support, strength, shelter, laughter, and for me, Pride is an excellent opportunity for spiritual replenishing.

As comforting as it may seem, I’m disheartened to admit I’m still uncertain of people wandering the streets who aren’t as understanding. It frightens me that someone would rather condemn me from afar than approach me as a human being and invite me to coffee or lunch. It doesn’t even have to be a shooting or a bombing. It can be as simple as a scoff if disdain. This, then, is where I encourage you, people of the Faith, people who don’t understand our plight, to reach out to the GSM community. I encourage you, members of the GSM community, to reach out to the Church, to those who don’t understand you. Talk to them. Get to know them as people. They bleed and cry like you. They laugh, they sing, they dance, cook, write, act, and pray like you do. Instead of solely fixating on their brokenness, see them as a whole. It was difficult seeing my parents as fallible humans who make mistakes and hurt the people they love, yet I learn from their mistakes and rebounds and apply them to my own lessons and mishaps. My love for them is endless, and Pride is something I hope one day I can share with them. It’s a peculiar source of comfort and strength, and it would be interesting to see them experience it firsthand. Pride has enhanced my perspective on the GSM community, and with every family, I have learned to accept the good and the bad. It has helped me examine myself as a gay man and a child of God. It has altered my perception as an author and scholar. In short, or perhaps not so short, Pride has shaped me into the gay man I am now. It’s a debt incalculable, a spiritual tab I can only cover with my devotion to GSM community’s causes. For where I am now, for the opportunities made available for me, for my downtrodden, fallen queer brethren, for the support and love from my friends — straight, gay, queer, bi, trans, non-binary, and the rest of the beautiful GSM rainbow — I give you my endless gratitude and a hug. Because I love giving hugs.

So there. That’s what Pride means to me. It took me an eight-minute article to explain myself. Maybe come visit me next time and hand me another Strongbow to shut me up.

Until next time, take care. Love you all.