Pride is almost the most liberating, joyful and meaningful event I’ve had the chance to witness in my young queer life. Over the course of the weekend, I caught glimpses of some of the deepest expressions of truth and love I’d ever born witness to.
I found myself witnessing all of these beautiful interactions of truth and love all weekend because, well, it’s very easy to people-watch when you’re alone. As a highly introverted, slightly closeted queer experiencing Pride in a new city, not only was I alone, but I actually felt lonely, which is new to me. I am the queen of introversion. The queen of independence. My friends know me as the person who will go to concerts, movies, clubs — alone. To me, a good weekend is one where I’ve spent most of my time hidden away getting high while watching Netflix, reading a book, listening to music or anything else that doesn’t involve other human life.
What this means is that in the year that I’ve lived in this new city of mine, I’ve made hardly any friends. Let alone any queer friends, which should be easy considering my US coastal city has a large queer population, network, and many opportunities for engagement within LGBTQ+ spaces. In fact, I do have some great friends out here. But none of them are young, single, QTPOC folks and/or engage in those spaces. Which sucks for me because I’ve realized since being in this new city of mine that I can actually be fully out with everyone who I interact with on a daily basis. Which, for me, means I WANT TO BE OUT. Despite my fierce brand of introversion and independence, I’m not opposed to dating and socializing and finding a community of people who I can do queer shit with. There’s something about finally being able to fully be who I am with no reservations that leaves me wanting more.
As such, I wanted a full Pride experience. I wanted to go out with a group of queers and celebrate ourselves. I wanted to get drunk and spend the night with some woman who I’d danced with all night. I wanted to feel the love and truth that I was witnessing all around me. But I couldn’t.
Fear of family members who are literally states and countries away kept me from engaging around Pride in online spaces. What if it got out that I was going? Or worse, what if it got out ‘why’ I was going?
I have already had several opportunities to witness, firsthand, how my family reacts to one of their own being “a gay.” It’s not good. I can still remember the mingled look of accusation and pain in my mom’s eyes the day she rashly asked me “so what are you gay too?” after a conversation in which I was defending my brother’s existence. It was as if she was suddenly coming to the realization that she’d failed as a parent. I immediately replied no and, to this day, can’t bring myself to break her heart in that way. Now, I silently nod my way through conversations with her and the rest of my family about when I’m going to find the right man, settle down and give them some grandbabies. The pressure of allowing my parents the peace of mind to know that they didn’t produce two broken children is enough to keep me silent. And, after all, I still find myself attracted to men so why not just live life straight and make it easier for everyone? So that’s what I’ve done.
Inferiority and inadequacy kept me from finding community. What if I’m not queer enough? What if they don’t believe me? They can probably already tell I’m new to this.
In my practiced life of being straight, I have learned to overemphasize my attraction to men while simultaneously stifling any romantic or sexual feelings towards women and gender nonconforming folks. I have embraced a largely “feminine” presentation. I have mastered the art of not discussing romantic/sexual relationships in general. All of which served me well until I realized I don’t actually want to continue living in the closet. And my frantic attempt to get out and let it be know to all (except, my family of course) has me constantly questioning whether or not I’m behaving “queer enough,” looking “queer enough,” talking “queer enough.” Whatever that means.
Anxiety kept me from asking the group of queers I work with to join them. Because, rejection. Because, desperation. Because I have the biggest crush on one of them and “OMG I can’t just ask her!!” Because, “they hate you.”
Embarrassment kept me from reaching out. Just be cool. They don’t need to see me crying for. ‘Cause what if everyone saw? What if everyone knew?
Apathy, shame, insecurity, depression, and even pride itself.
Because admitting any of this to anyone would instantly tear away the image of strength, independence, self-sufficiency and confidence which I’ve spent years practicing. It would leave me vulnerable. It would make me feel weak. And despite all of the time I spend encouraging others to practice vulnerability & openness, my pride and unwillingness to “show weakness” breeds hypocrisy.
All of these things made it so that I couldn’t.
So instead I smoked some weed and watched families come together. I marched side-by-side with my crush, along with a group where we bonded over volunteer tasks and music, before reaching the end of the march where everyone promptly scurried away to reunite with their groups. I smoked some more. I took the 20 minute walk to the club alone during which I was catcalled in a way that made me fear for my well-being. I stood in line for over an hour where I’d immediately scope out another person standing alone only to see them eventually joined by the friends whose place they were holding. I danced alone. I smoked some more.
And eventually found my way home where I asked my friends to keep me posted if they see me tagged in anything Pride because obviously that shit will have to come down before anyone in the family sees it. And when Monday came, I scrolled through Instagram liking every one of my queer friends’ Pride weekend pictures.
I was happy for them. I am happy for them. And witnessing their joy makes me eager for my moment. I’m not going to lie: for me, Pride weekend was sad. But it was also an experience I think I may have needed to realize that maybe I do need to practice more vulnerability. Maybe I do need to reach out more often and express my naturally human desire for community and companionship. Maybe I don’t always need to be the queen of independence. Because, even if I am not yet ready to be fully out, I have been given an opportunity in this new city to be more of me. And it motivates me to take on what I know will be the difficult journey of achieving that liberation.
So I haven’t given up hope quite yet, but I felt this experience was important to share because I’m probably not alone.
But not alone.
And I hope you know you aren’t either.
Inspired by the lyrics of Sara Bareilles and Dear Evan Hansen, cause “I learned to slam on the breaks” at a very young age.