I spent nearly three decades of my life sexually involved with other guys, and even longer than that attracted to them, and in all that time I never once considered Pride Month or attending any Pride parades or events. Part of that thinking is because I was raised in the South in the 60’s and 70’s, and in the Black community particularly acting like a homosexual (or “sissy” or “f*ggot,” words commonly used back then) was strictly taboo.
Gay men would either stay on the down-low or be total flamers because they didn’t care what people thought.
I was the former, someone on the DL.
It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle in the early 90’s during the AIDS Epidemic that I saw my first Pride parade. You wouldn’t believe the tension and fear that filled the atmosphere back then.
Despite so many businesses refusing to serve people, parents kicking out their teenage kids, friends rejecting friends, clinics turning people away, restaurants having people use plastic utensils while seated in the back, people losing their jobs, and churches closing their doors because they were afraid of catching AIDS, the gay community still pulled together as a family and organized those annual parades.
Every gay club, bar, and organization in the city saw what was happening in hospitals and homes and hospices and on the streets — death among death — and instead of canceling the Pride parades, the community decided they needed something to lift spirits. I was working in a gay drug rehab center at the time, so the Pride parade went right past my building.
Being the only “straight” employee there (remember, I was on the DL, and people saw me as an ally), I got asked if I wanted to go to the parade since I’d never been to one. I said sure.
I’m not one for parades in general, but in the few moments that I stayed, I could see that people weren’t worried about the number of pills they had to take, who hated them, the bloodwork they had the next day, and all the other negative things in their lives. They just wanted to be queer and enjoy the parade.
Sometimes that’s what we have to do — just be queer and enjoy the parade of life, so to speak. All too often we let the pressures of this world weigh us down, and when our same-sex attraction (SSA) adds to that, we tend to complicate things more than we need to.
Since leaving Seattle, I’ve attended Pride parades in two other cities on opposite sides of the country: San Diego and Jacksonville. I guess it’s no coincidence that I’ve lived in gay neighborhoods in both of those cities. As conservative as San Diego was when I lived there years ago, things were quite different come Pride time: drag queens and other people wearing leather chaps or strap-ons or thongs with their butt cheeks showing, gyrating and twerking on floats to music blaring through the streets.
It’s amazing how nobody complained. I guess nobody wanted to be regarded a homophobe.
In Jacksonville, I’ve never paid attention to Pride parades because people are more open with their sexuality here than when I was in San Diego. I guess what I’m saying is that every day, even outside Pride Month, Pride is a celebration in my neighborhood, and I love it.
Like everyone else in this neighborhood, I can finally be me — something I could never do growing up. I always had to fake the stereotype of being a strong Black man.
Of course, I never really knew what it meant to be a strong Black man; but what the heck, I figured I’d give it a shot. I’ll tell you right now, that didn’t last long, surrounded by femininity: my mom, my great-grandmother, and two sisters. How was I supposed to be a strong Black man amidst all that estrogen?
Looking back on all the years I wasted not being who I was, I’m saddened. I know part of the reason is because of when and where I was born, but another part is because I wasn’t as brave as I should have been like those at Stonewall.
Sure, I suffered for being gay by being sent to prison and embarrassing my family, but I never got beaten up for being gay, or outed in the newspaper, or excommunicated from the church, or disowned by my family and friends just because I wanted to be true to myself.
Parades aren’t for everyone, but we can take part in this sense of Pride not just in June, but whenever, because of who we are. So many of us have had to hide who we are because of when/where/how we were raised; others have chosen not to say anything for other reasons.
Whatever the case, whether we identify as SSA, gay, bi, asexual, non-binary, or somewhere else on the sexual and gender identity spectrums, be proud of who you are because you are made in God’s image.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
Have you attended a Pride parade, or have you felt a disconnect with or resistance to Pride? How do you exemplify a healthy sense of pride in who you are all year long?