Pride Month: The End

I want to start this post with a video. This month, content creator and YouTube star, Tyler Oakley,  released a pride-related video series called Chosen Family: Stories of Queer Resilience. I highly suggest watching the entire series, because each piece is unique and powerful, but there was one video that really resonated with me.

I was lucky enough to spend not one but two days during NYC’s Pride Weekend at Stonewall. After watching this video, something just clicked for me.

This month has meant so much to me and I have so many amazing people to shower in endless thank you’s for that. Emily, Tierney, Nick, Jocelyn, Josh, Kevin, Nick, Collin, Alex, Carrie, LJ, Chrissy, and Bia – without you, this month would not have been possible. To say all of your words have been inspiring is an understatement beyond belief. You guys have become more than just a piece on my blog, you have genuinely influenced me to be more myself than ever before.

Spending Pride Weekend at Stonewall made me realize how grateful I am for this month, this blog experience, and all of the people that took the time to read these words every day.

We really have come such a long way since the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Although we still have a lot left to fight for, I just wanted to take a minute to appreciate where we are now.

As cliche as it is, growing up, I would have never been able to find a blog filled with a month’s worth of LGBTQ+ related stories and experiences. On a personal note, even a few years ago I wouldn’t have had the balls to want to create LGBTQ+ content like this either. We/I have come so far and for that, I am so proud.

In all seriousness though, this blog has been so empowering/therapeutic for me these past couple months, but it has grown to become something so much more than that. I am so beyond appreciative for every single person who has been willing to open themselves up for the sake of helping others. I am so thankful for everyone who has read these words, reached out to these writers, and shared this content. Without all of you, my little passion project would be meaningless.

I want to end with a reminder – each of you reading this have stories and words worth sharing. Your feelings and valid and your experiences are meaningful. Content like this needs to be shared. Content like this is raw and real and relatable. Content like this really, truly helps people.

Thank you so much for making my second month of collaborative content one I will never forget.

New content coming soon!

x

Pride Month: Chrissy

Remember last month when I said how crazy and mind-blowing it was to receive so much positive feedback regarding the Mental Health Awareness Month posts? If you had told me then that these Pride Month posts would receive even more views, shares, and positive feedback, I probably would have never believed you. 

More on how appreciative I am for all of that another time, but I did want to touch on it for a reason. The writer of this piece is Chrissy, a friend of my friend Laura. It was so beyond humbling when Chrissy reached out to me to write a piece for this blog (thanks to you too, Laura). This kind of interest from people like Chrissy is exactly why I wanted to start this project in the first place. 

I think Chrissy’s words are important for many reasons. As you will read, she explains a common misconception that many people struggle with. For some reason, there is still this unspoken belief that, as a female, you can’t be both gay and pretty. There is still this massive lingering stereotype that gay men are all chiseled Gods with wonderful taste in fashion, and gay women are masculine,  sports-loving, for lack of a better term, “dykes”. 

Not only do I strongly disagree with this long-standing theory, but I actually believe it can be really detrimental to both people within the LGBTQ+ community, and people still coming to terms with their sexuality. To see what I mean by this, check out Chrissy’s piece below: 

“You’re too pretty to be gay.”

A phrase that holds more power than I could ever imagine. Most people who utter it think it’s a harmless joke after feeling unsure of how to react when I disclose my sexuality. But I wish so badly that I could show them the self-conscious whirlwind it sends me down.

I used to feel so much pressure from society to “be a certain way”, and at first, that meant trying to be “straight.” I was unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt empty – like I had no purpose in life when I could not live it, or express myself, the way that made me happy. I felt like I was constantly drowning. There was no coming up for air until I could let the part of me out that would help keep me afloat.

When I first started coming out to people, I felt obligated to be the “right kind of lesbian.” What does that even mean, anyway? Ask most close-minded people, and the responses you may get are “butch” or “dyke”. My personal favorite? “Lipstick lesbian.” A term that is thrown around like some foul, derogatory thing, like it’s the “wrong” lesbian. I felt I had something to prove, as if I had to show people that I could be the “right” kind of lesbian. But not anymore. I love women, and how I look and how I dress doesn’t change that. I am free to love who I want, and that, that is what pride is about for me. This month is meant to show people that it’s okay to not fit in a perfect box. Not everything is black and white. It’s something to celebrate, not something to put others down for. Love is beautiful in its entirety.

While I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no wrong way to love, I still struggle with getting to the stage of readiness where I can tell other people about who I love. My reality of being a lesbian? Imagine every time you met someone new you had to preface with “I’m straight”. It sounds absurd, right?  To announce your sexuality as if it could make or break a relationship. Or worse, that it’s something that could put your life in danger. That’s the reality I live in. With every new move, every new opportunity or experience, any time there’s a chance to meet someone new, it’s a thought that’s in the back of my head, constantly. How to do it, if I should say it, playing out the worst case scenario of how someone might respond. 

As the years go on, I have realized how much it consumes my life, and though I have become more confident with who I am, the fear of people’s responses has grown stronger. I literally feel an obligation to come out again, every time I meet someone. When I was dating, I felt like I had to explain to everyone that I was gay before I could bring my girlfriend around. Needless to say, the anxiety won out most of the time. Unfortunately,  it has been the cause of many breakups, which is infuriating. I want to be angry at all the people I feel as though I have to explain myself to. But who’s fault is it that I have to explain myself? That is the million dollar question. Where did this notion that I have to “get permission” to be gay around people I consider friends come from? Without anywhere to direct that anger, it can bubble inside. Combined with the anxiety it brings, it’s like the angel and the devil on your shoulder, only worse, because they are both whispering terrible things into your ear.

Working in healthcare, I feel as if I will forever be living a double life. I feel obligated to hide the truth about my sexual orientation for fear that it will impact being hired or being able to maintain a job, or worse, how my patients view me. While I want to be angry at the people who make me feel like I have to hide, I am actually more upset with myself for letting other people have such a hold on my life and how I live it. I don’t feel like me, not completely. Because a huge part of me is missing for the majority of my day, and instead, it is always just tucked away in my mind.  While most of the time it’s not something that’s actively a part of my day, it’s impossible to permanently evade the “do you have a boyfriend?” question. A question I so desperately want to correct, and say, “do you mean ‘do I have a significant other?'” I wish I was just bold enough to respond with, “no, but I have a girlfriend.” That day has yet to come though. I am hoping one day I’ll be brave enough because that day will be the first that I feel infinitely free.

 While I would like to think we’ve made progress in this world, it’s still a very scary place to live in. The fear of rejection can make you feel like such an inadequate human being. It can waste you away into nothingness, and infiltrate your every thought until you actually start to believe that you aren’t worth it, that you’re wrong, and that you’re not enough. If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this, it’s that they are enough. They are worth it. Rejection does not define you as a person but rather, it speaks volumes of those who are unwilling to open their minds. It is so incredibly important to rise above those people and love in the way that feels right to you. That’s why “Pride” is such an amazing experience.  You can feel the power of love, and you can sense the strength of all those who have risen above the worst of it. That strength is what we need.  That strength gives people hope. That strength is why I’m here today.   

You can also check out Chrissy on Instagram: @chrissy_wojo

Pride Month: LJ

Today I am extremely happy to share a post written by the very talented, Lawn aka LJ. I met LJ freshman year of college, and I remember feeling like she was just immediately one of the most friendly, outgoing, and accepting people I had met thus far. 

Freshman year of college is weird AF, you’re trying to get to know people, find your niche, and feel comfortable in a foreign place. I was lucky to have been introduced to LJ through another friend of mine, Kara, and our friendship just felt natural. I’m pretty sure the first time we hung out she literally let me drag her along to a concert hours away from our school, for an artist she had never heard of, and even welcomed us to sleep at her house afterward too. 

Anyway, the reason I asked her to write has nothing to do with that (lol), I just wanted to give a funny little backstory. I asked LJ to write because I think her ideas are extremely important. I’ve been following her on Twitter for years now,  and I just feel like there is so much substance and importance to the things LJ tweets and retweets. I just had this feeling that if I reached out to her, she’d have something unique and valuable to share. 

To be honest, LJ’s piece surpasses what I even expected. I know this month is about “Pride”, but like I have said before, “Pride”, and the meaning behind it, encompasses so much more than just positive experiences. Her words aren’t necessarily about a coming out story or a supportive moment, quite the opposite actually, and I think that is what makes them powerful. I don’t want to give too much away with my summary, so just check it out here:

I’m gay, but don’t tell my coworkers

June. The month many LGBTQA members of our society are looking forward to every year. Why? Well, because it’s the month corporate America so generously gives to the LGBTQA community as a chance to be unapologetically proud of who we are and who we love.

For starters, I am a cisgender gay woman and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am out to pretty much everyone: my parents, my friends, and even the random girls I meet around midnight in bars while I’m in line for the bathroom.

However, there is one group of people to which I have never uttered the words, “I’m gay” — my coworkers. While many of them probably assume my identity because I never bring a date to our staff parties and can rock a pantsuit better than Ellen, they never bring it up.

Kenji Yoshino best describes this term in his book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. In Laymen’s terms, to cover is to tone down a disfavored identity to fit the mainstream. It’s not a new term and it isn’t solely attributed to the LGBTQA community. There is also racial covering and sex-based covering, but this post focuses on LGBTQA covering.

People cover for many reasons. I cover for fear that my homosexual identity will undermine the quality of work that I produce. I don’t want to be known at work for my sexual orientation because I don’t want to give anyone a reason to dislike me for something that is irrelevant to my work performance.

Is this thought process messed up? You bet. It’s hard going to work every day feeling like I have to censor my true self to cater to the bias and comfort levels of other people.

But covering doesn’t make me feel safe and “in control.” Instead, I feel ashamed and dishonest. I’m ashamed that I care so much of what current and future colleagues may think of me and I feel a dishonesty that is so privileged because I can pass as straight.

It’s also discouraging to think that people I work so closely with every day might suddenly shift their opinions of me because of who I have feelings for.

I guess I have to decide what’s more important to me, the comfort of others or how beautiful my girlfriend will look at our next holiday party.

Pride Month: Me

I wrote this post a couple of months ago for a friend’s zine (check out Jvmp The Gun and Orenda Lou…it was their zine). These were feelings and emotions I have wanted to share for a long time, but as I began to write, I realized it was more difficult than I thought to find the right words for the ideas I wanted to convey.

It’s weird to say that though. You would think it would be simple to write a piece about yourself. Who knows you better than you, ya know? But when it comes down to it, it’s more difficult than it sounds to sum yourself up in a combination of words. 

After I wrote this, I literally panicked about actually sharing it. Not so much for fear of judgment, but for fear that I didn’t fit the way I defined myself enough. I think at the root of it, that’s always been my biggest concern. I’ve never felt like I actually fit in any one box. I never felt extremely feminine or extremely masculine or extremely straight or extremely gay. But then to say I’m somewhere in the middle scared me too. What if I wasn’t in the middle enough? What if people see me differently than I see myself? 

I think that’s a big part of why I wanted to do this collaborative project though. Because at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what box you fit into or where you fall along the spectrum. If you identify a certain way, others should respect and accept that. You are exactly who you feel like you are, and no one should tell you otherwise. There is an infinite amount of people in this world that identify an infinite amount of different ways. No one way is more right or more wrong than another. 

With that said, here is my piece:

Dear Younger Self,

Right now, you see the world as black and white, this or that, good or bad. In all honesty, the simplicity is beautiful, but within that beauty, you will also realize great flaws. You will grow to learn that life is so much more than just one or the other.

I can’t blame you that right now you dream of fitting in. Kids are harsh, man. I feel your pain. You spend countless nights picturing what it would be like if the kids at school stopped picking on you. You literally have dreams of what it would feel like if the boys had crushes on you. Nothing seems to matter more than feeling like you’re accepted. I get that, you’re not wrong. I mean damn, right now you can’t stop begging your mom to buy a minivan and join the neighborhood social circle of stay-at-home moms. You’re just clinging to any “normal” ideals that you can think of, and it’s okay. I know you think that you would do anything to look like that girl in the denim miniskirt that you see in the hallway every morning because she always has the boyfriends. You are dying to be more feminine, more generic, more binary.

Just to calm your nerves, I’ll tell you now: You make those friends, you buy those clothes, and you attract a lot of those boys. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, too: You lose yourself in the process.

I can’t wait until you’re older and someone calls you “fluid” for the first time. I can’t put into words how understood you’ll feel.

If I could give you any bit of advice, I’d actually tell you not to do anything differently. You need those experiences, those friends, those fights, the kisses, the late nights, the drunk memories, the tears, the beautiful joy, and the gut-wrenching pain. You need it all to get to where you are now.

You need to feel as generic and accepted as possible to realize it’s not what you want or who you are. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re 21, 22, 23 years old and still figuring everything out. You are doing it all exactly right.

When you learn what fluidity is you’ll feel afraid to let your guard down. You’re going to spend a lot of time denying that you could possibly identify with such a term. At first, you’re going to still wish you were hyper-feminine. Once you let that idea go, you’ll beat yourself up for not fitting the term enough. You’ll still feel misunderstood, even by a word that is so all-encompassing.

Let me remind you now, so you can remind yourself a hundred times over as you grow: It is all just a spectrum. You are part of the spectrum and you will find so much pride in that.

I know you feel confused. How could you have spent two decades trying to perfect yourself only to realize everything you grew into is the opposite of who you are? You will search for so many answers within strangers because you will feel too lost to even ask your friends.

But hey, stupid, guess what? Your friends know you better than you think they do, and they accept you wholeheartedly. I know you’re just scared, but how could you ever doubt that? They will call you fluid before you even say it yourself.

There is so much beauty in the in-betweens. There is so much relief in all the grey.

You may not always feel true to it, but you are fluid in every sense of the word. The more you embrace it, the more confidence will bloom inside of you.

Life will ebb and flow. You will feel just as masculine as feminine some days. You will realize that love knows no gender. Sometimes you will feel so painfully low that you won’t leave the house, and so flawlessly high that the world seems technicolor.

Wear that fluidity like a badge of honor. Let yourself dance along the spectrum. Feel and love and experience all of the changes. Allow yourself to be a new version of who you are every day. Let it drive you, inspire you, and teach you. Experiment. Let go of the fear. Connect with yourself. Realize that your differences radiate like beautiful bouquets from within you.

I know you won’t always feel unapologetically confident. No one does. You will still hide behind a lot of facades. Just don’t let yourself feel like you’re taking steps forward just to take those same steps back. You are progressing, even when it’s not linear. Cut yourself a break and embrace the grey of it all.

Pride Month: Alex

Recently I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Alex, the writer of this piece. If Alex has taught me anything, it’s to never judge a book by its cover. I know I’ve really been using cliches left and right to describe these writers, but bear with me.

Alex is a sports reporter. If you look through her social media, you’ll see a beautiful, confident AF, powerful chick. Alex is all of those things, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that there is more to a person than the way the present themselves to the world. 

Although we continue to make strides as a country, we still live in a very heteronormative society. That way of thinking is just second nature to most of us. I think it is important to keep in mind that most people don’t actually fit perfectly in this binary world we’re so accustomed to though. 

As you will read, Alex explains her feelings on preconceived notions, labels, and false judgments. This piece is a good reminder that Pride Month is meant to encompass a broad spectrum of experiences, identities, and beliefs. I think most of us can relate to these words in one way or another. Check it out:

In lieu of Pride month: This wannabe Kardashian mirror selfie has inspired me to write about my journey in a male dominated, heteronormative industry. 

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Fear & Feminism go hand-in-hand for me. It’s just like that game “Never Have I Ever.” You know, that silly game you played back in the day, where you lied to convince the world you’re cooler than you actually are. Anyway, never have I ever fit a specific gender mold or stereotype. With that, I’ve struggled with my identity at times – not a good feeling. My social media image has specifically always been a battle. For many reasons, mostly because of my profession, I’ve been cautious of what I post. Often, resorting to not posting anything at all because I didn’t want to get fired or unfairly judged. Now, I’m in-between jobs and I’m scared it will affect getting hired again.  I’ve tormented myself with questions like; “Will this photo make me look too boyish?” Or “Will people think I’m slutty if I post another selfie?” And my favorite, “What if I lose followers with a non-sexy picture, or one about girl politics” (those followers being mostly men who only follow me for the latter).

Why can’t I post all of it without being put into a Jeopardy category? I always post about sports. I post videos of myself being stupid and hitting tackling dummies at the Jets practice facility. I’ve even Instagrammed myself wearing an ugly pantsuit with my mom when we went to vote for Hillary (never forget Hill Dog). So, what I’m saying is simple. I should also be able to post this wannabe Kardashian, bikini mirror selfie if I damn well please! I don’t think it makes me any less of a feminist or strong female figure. 

It’s really exhausting dealing with this sh$t. (I know, whoa is me. You poor, privileged white girl). But I can personally tell you that a lot of people struggle with issues that aren’t obvious to the naked eye. I might look or sound a certain way, but most of you don’t know who I really am…probably a good thing because I’m crazy (joking, but not really). Judgmental men AND women are running around rampant in the sports media world. I’m serious, it’s  more common than girls spending half of their monthly paychecks on SoulCycle when they can’t even afford their rent. I have a message to all of the haters and instigators. To the athletes who assume I “want” them because of my outgoing personality – sorry, but I’m just a girl trying to do her job. I don’t want you. I want an interview with you, I want your story. To former colleagues who’ve spread rumors that I sleep around, and attribute it to my success as a reporter –  your vitriol is more laughable than when some idiot wrote that I wanted “Bukaki” from the entire Jets team on a very public forum (google the word for a chuckle).

You see, sometimes things and people aren’t as they appear, and that’s definitely the case for me. I hate labels more than I hate people who think it’s okay to chomp on their gum, or who leave their bloodstained mattresses in the hallway outside my apartment (seriously people?) I refuse to label myself, but I have you all thinking now, don’t I? The only category I’ll ever put myself  into is one labeled “Bad Ass Chick.” I’m proud of exactly who I am; a twenty-something-year-old who just wants to get through the day, and come home to her Frenchie and glass of chardonnay.

This is where the mirror selfie comes back into play. Don’t judge a chick or a dude by his or her cover. So here’s my kicker…I like boys, and I like girls too. The more the merrier! I’ve dated women over the last six years of my life.  Shocking? It might be for those of you who don’t know me. That’s why it’s so important we stop making preconceived notions about people in a heteronormative society. You might think I’m weird and that’s fine. I’m perfectly perfect being different. 

You can follow Alex on social media: 
Instagram: @alexgiaimo
Twitter: @AlexGiaimo
And her website: alexgiaimo.com

Pride Month: Collin

Today’s piece is written by my great friend Collin — a man of many talents. A horseback riding, Soul Cycle enthusiast, and Twitter aficionado, if you will. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so, to better describe Collin, here he is: 

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Collin was actually the first person I ever asked to help me write an LGBTQ-related piece back in college. His willingness to support my projects, and also be honest and vulnerable in the process, has been something I really appreciate and admire. 

As cliche as it may sound, Collin is just unapologetically himself and it’s invigorating to be around. He makes the people around him feel comfortable without even consciously trying. As you will read though, not everyone Collin encounters even takes the time to realize they feel similarly.

I really loved this piece, because at its core it’s just honest. The idea of “Pride” really does encompass a lot of happy memories for people, but to truly appreciate the positives, we must also acknowledge the setbacks. 

Collin’s words will give you the perfect insight into what this means: 

My good ole friend Krump asked me to write a blog post about pride and what it means to me. I thought it would be easy! I’m gay. I have pride. Give me 20 minutes and a glass of wine and I’ll be done, but I was wrong.

I have to be honest, I don’t know much about blogs. In fact, I think of them as solely a place where people go to write about topics of expertise or to offer advice. You make a mean fudge brownie that’s under 4 calories? Blog it. You were able to overcome a terrible break up with a neighbor’s dog? Blog it. However, when it came down to writing this blog post, instead of feeling like an expert with advice to give, I became overwhelmed with a strange feeling of guilt. Who was I to write a blog post about pride?

Pride is often synonymous with being proud, but to me, that’s not always the case. In fact, there are many times I wish I could be more proud of who I am. For example, I felt like shit recently when I hailed a cab in NYC after a date, and the driver sped off when he saw me kiss my date goodbye. In high school, I cried in the bathroom after I was denied the opportunity to donate blood, all because I had slept with a man. I still get nervous holding hands with another man in public because I fear shame and rejection. When I think about these little things that make me not so proud, I realize there is still so much work to be done – both personally and in society.

But then again, there is also so much to celebrate. For starters, I didn’t even have a super dramatic coming out story. I was 16 years old, tying my shoes before school one day when my mom approached me and said, “Coll, your dad and I know you’re gay and it’s not a big deal. We will always love you.” Also, I can get married to whoever I want (PSA boys, DM me @collin_russ). Pride is compiled of little moments like those because when it comes down to it, I’m pretty #blessed. I have a supportive family, amazing friends, good health, and a career that leaves me feeling fulfilled. This month isn’t just about celebrating the LGBT community and the strides we’ve made, it’s about celebrating yourself and who you are. Being a living, feeling human is fucking hard sometimes, and Pride Month is a great reminder to reflect on all there is to celebrate. Be proud, have pride.

Needless to say, you can check out Collin on Instagram: @collin_russ
And Twitter: @collin_russ

Pride Month: Nick

Today’s post is written by my best friend’s friend, Nick. Similar to how I felt about yesterday’s writer, I knew even before I read Nick’s words that they were bound to be great. My best friend Sammy, the person who introduced me to Nick, has always had this ability to seek out some pretty exceptional and inspiring friends. Here is what she has to say about Nick and his words:

“I honestly don’t know how I am supposed to introduce this piece. It’s extremely special to me for multiple reasons. Reason one being that Nick is a close friend of mine. I inherited this friendship through my boyfriend and if you know Nick at all, you want him as a friend. He is smart, cool, incredibly funny and has great taste in music. Reason two is because when I asked Nick to do this, I knew going into it that he is an extreme procrastinator like myself. I honestly didn’t think I would receive any form of writing from him unless I harassed him (which I did). When I opened his email and had a chance to read his words, I found myself lost in them. I almost forgot my friend was the person behind the writing.

When I met Nick, he wasn’t “out” yet to his family and friends. When Nick told me, it was the most natural conversation in the world. To be honest, I already knew. What happened after, has been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Not only did Nick introduce me to a community that is so unbelievably loving and supportive, he showed me what it means to truly be yourself. To live without fear and to love unconditionally. Nick wasn’t the happiest soul when I first met him. His transformation into the person he is today has been the most beautiful thing to watch, and I am blessed to be a part of it.

Pride to me is my friend finding happiness, growing closer to his father, and creating a life for himself that he (and everyone who loves him) is proud of.”

I truly hope Nick’s words impact all of you as much as they have impacted me and Sammy. Here are his feelings on “Pride”: 

Every LGBT person looks at the rainbow flag differently. It inspires the memory and ability to reflect on their own story and the mental battle that took place to accept who they are today. Every story is different, but our love for Pride and respect for what it represents is equal. My story is a happy one, but difficult to cope with (at the beginning) nonetheless.

I came out on my college graduation weekend to my dad (who is also gay), and his partner. I was planning on coming out to them in person, but due to a jam-packed weekend full of graduation events, I couldn’t. I ended up emailing my dad once he arrived back to Massachusetts (pathetic, I know, but I’m over it). I remember shaking before pressing the ‘Send’ button. I would hover my finger over the button and then stop and pace around the room. Eventually, I pressed the button and threw my phone onto my bed in disbelief. That was the first step toward a completely different way of life for me. There was no turning back at this point, and letting that sink in was an unforgettable sensation. Moments later my dad called me, and of course, I ignored it. He left me a long voicemail that I have saved to this day, and plan on never deleting. He ended up jumping on a plane to Denver two days later, and we talked and reflected on our own stories and what it meant to be a gay man in today’s world. You think you know your parents, but this experience gave me a whole different outlook on my dad as a person, and not just as my father. That summer I slowly started coming out to my friends. I experienced a number of different reactions, ranging from long, emotional hugs, to friends saying things like “What?! I thought we were going to make out!”. Eventually, towards the end of the summer, I would just get “Yeah, I already knew.” Regardless, every reaction has been a positive one, and I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who think nothing of a sexual orientation different than their own.

My dad’s partner (let’s call him Jon), who has been in my life since middle school, had more of an effect on my coming out than anyone else. My dad could have stayed in the closet for the rest of his life and no one would have known, but since meeting and falling in love with Jon, he learned that being closeted is no way to live. Since they met, both my dad and Jon have lived life to the absolute fullest. They’ve traveled the world, quit corporate jobs that give them no pleasure, and have been proudly gay and madly in love. Seeing my dad reinvent his life this way gave me the confidence to tell people the truth about myself. Knowing that, if my dad could come out at age 50 without judgment, I could do it at age 22. Witnessing that it’s possible to live a ‘traditional’ life with another man, and knowing that it is not only accepted but encouraged to get married, have kids, go on vacations, adopt a dog… Jon is the reason both my dad and I are happily gay because, without his leadership, we would look at the gay community as a group we falsely identified with. Now, years later, I’ve learned how amazing this community really is. A community I deeply resonate with and am extremely proud to be a part of.

So, what do I think of Pride? I think of my dad who came out later in life, and the struggle he dealt with for over 50 years. I think of my dad’s long-term partner, and what an amazing influence he’s had, not only on my dad’s life, but mine as well. I think of my own life, and how fortunate I am to have such accepting and loving people around me, and how not every gay person is born into this blessing. And lastly, when I look at that flag, I think of the heartless, horrible people that view it with disgust. Those who think this celebration isn’t deserved, or see it as harmful to society. Those are the ones who delayed this LGBT progression we’ve seen in the past two years, and those are the ones who will never know how to celebrate life like we do.

Pride Month: Kevin

Like I said before, this Pride Month project has given me such an amazing opportunity to get to know some really unique, talented, and beyond-awesome people. Going into this, I was hoping for some sort of outcoming like that, but I can assure you that this collaborative experience has become way more than anything that I could have imagined. 

Each person that has been willing to bear a bit of their soul for the purpose of this month has blown me away, and it makes me so excited to share their words each day. 

Today’s piece is written by Kevin, whom I was introduced to by my very great friend Louise. Before I even talked to him, I knew he would be cool. Louise just has this way of gravitating towards people that are worth knowing. Here is how she describes Kevin: 

“From meeting Kevin Freshmen year, covered in highlighter in the basement of Llamda Chi, to watching the soulful, creamii rapper perform live – I could tell that he has always had a gift for lighting up a room. I’ve always admired and loved how Kevin could make everyone instantly feel at ease, no matter the situation, like a friend you have known for years. I’m excited for you all to read on about how he finds solace in being part of the LGBTQ community in the same way in which I, and many of the people that know Kevin, have found comfort in him.

He has more talent than Pablo Picasso, the dance moves of Brittany Spears, and an absolute soul of gold. I hope his story inspires you as much as it continues to inspire me. (p.s. Kevin, ILY and miss you more than DHAWL DASH)”

Check out his words here:

I remember laying in bed at night as a kid, in the late 90’s through the 00’s, worrying about my own future. I vividly remember wishing my gay away as I would try to fall asleep. I had instincts of how difficult coming out would be when I got older. I would lay there worrying about how my older brother would view me — worrying about how my straight friends react. Coming out is very mentally taxing. The process is truly the most exhausting thing I’ve endured, just because of how patient you have to be when you receive insensitive or rude responses after you open up with somebody who may not have ever even met a gay person before. BUT it’s worth it. It feels good.

Today, I recognize that being gay is both electrifying and frustrating. I love the camaraderie I share with my “sisters” and I feel like my truest self when I can say whatever is on my mind, without non-identifying people making remarks or raising an eyebrow. This feeling is something my immediate family probably won’t ever understand. The relationship I have with people who are gay or sexually fluid or trans or queer is something I’ve become quite protective of — it is something that I honestly don’t want to share with straight people. Too often, they just don’t want to hear about what is really happening in our world… they may think they do sometimes, but I’ve noticed that even if it’s through their stiff body language — queer-talk can easily make straight people uncomfortable.

Sometimes I wonder how my parents and brother would react if I talked to them about what I talk about with my LGBTQ friends. I’m sure they’d be super uncomfortable and want to crawl in a tiny hole and die — and that kind of makes me giggle. Just because everyone knows for sure that I’m gay, doesn’t mean they can handle the full experience, and honestly, I’m learning to feel content with that. My immediate family offers me strength through advice and love and concern and care. They are what keep me from not tattooing things onto my face that I’d probably regret and adopting 13 cats… they keep me grounded. Even though sometimes I want to be a lot more reckless with my behavior– my family as a unit is always on my mind during the trials and tribulations of life, which is something not everybody can say, so I do my best to not take that for granted.

Friends can shift. You get into fights, you have falling outs, you say words that ultimately break bonds you thought could never break. But there is always community in being gay. In just 5 years, I’ve gotten to meet some people I never thought I would connect with and the common denominator between us is —– gay. We share a bond that is felt without always having to say what you’ve been through in words. We already know first hand how difficult gay experiences can be, especially when you’re young and don’t have a single outlet to open up to, which is why the common threads in our community feel so special and deep. 

Speaking of special and deep…… Love. If you’re gay, you’ve never grown up knowing what a prototype of “love” is because it is so underrepresented in our culture. It leaves many of us jaded by the mere idea. I like to speculate that if and when LGBTQ-identifying folks DO experience love, that it may be even more special and even more deep than those prototypes that were always shoved down our throats. Speaking of love – ily Samuel.

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Like Louise mentioned, Kevin is an artist!!! 
Check out his work on his website: https://www.artbysabo.com/
(it seriously will mesmerize you) 

You can also follow his work and life on Instagram: @bb_kv 

Pride Month: Josh

The writer of this piece is the closest combination of Beyonce, Kim K, and Kanye that I have ever met in my life. As many of you already know, he is a king.
 
Throughout college, Josh and I were entwined in many of the same social circles. It’s funny though because having said that, I think it took us a while to actually become close friends.

I remember one of our last nights at JMU before graduation, I was at a house party with Josh, and while everyone was outside, he took me into the empty living room, put on a playlist of solely Beyonce songs, and performed every single dance to every single song, to the T, without stopping. It was, for lack of a better word, literally captivating. After that, all bets were off. I just knew we would be great friends.

Josh is the kind of person that makes you feel confident and unapologetically yourself, just by being around him. I couldn’t be luckier to still have him as a friend, even years after graduating, and multiple states between us. 

It means a lot that he was willing to write something for my blog this month, so check it out here:

Pride:
Gives me life. A life I never thought I would ever be able to live freely.

From the first time I got that “weird” feeling about another guy, I thought something was wrong with me. I was young and didn’t know what it was. As I grew older, I learned that “weird” feeling was actually called being gay. So I asked myself: is this the way you should be? Is that the way you want to be? You don’t want to be that kid that’s different or unpopular. C’mon.

Time went on and I refused to accept the fact that I was “different”. I graduated from high school and ventured to JMU for undergrad. I was thinking and hoping something might change. I joined a fraternity, thinking maybe I would like girls and be normal. Nah. Didn’t happen. Instead, that lead to many encounters with other closeted frat guys (gay and JMU Greek life, blasphemy, right?).

I got tired of constantly living a lie and finally came out to my family and close friends the summer after sophomore year of college. The response I received from them was nothing short of acceptance and love. At that point, I started living the way I was meant to live. Even though every day still isn’t easy, I know I’m where I’m meant to be.

To anyone out there who is scared, confused and lonely: I’ve been there. Things will get better and easier. Don’t give up on true yourself to conform to what society thinks. Fuck society. Slay the game and live your beautiful life. Be proud, baby.

Pride Month: Jocelyn

I’ve thought for a while about how to appropriately introduce this piece and I’m still at a loss for words, but I mean that in the best way. 

Today’s words are written by my good friend, Jocelyn. I’ve been lucky enough to have known her for a few years now, but I feel like it’s safe to say we’ve grown much closer recently. 

When I say I’m at a loss for words, I mean that I was blown away by how vulnerable, genuine, and honest Jocelyn was willing to be in this piece. These words speak volumes about the kind of person she has become, and it makes me so happy to see how she’ll continue to grow in the future.

I think that, regardless of your sexuality, or where you may be in the coming out process, her opinions and experiences will resonate with you. Not to completely overuse the word “pride” but, I just couldn’t be more proud to know Jocelyn after reading this.

Without further ado, here is a look inside the mind and feelings of Joce: 

Pride To Me:

The word pride can have many different meanings and definitions. For example, The word pride is defined in the dictionary as follows:

Definition of Pride:

  1. the quality or state of being proud: such as
    a:  inordinate self-esteem:  conceit
    b:  a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
    c:  delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship parental pride
  2. proud or disdainful behavior or treatment:  disdain
  3. a:  ostentatious display
  4. b:  highest pitch:  prime
  5. a source of pride:  the best in a group or class
  6. a company of lions
  7. a showy or impressive group a pride of dancers

Although my definition of pride may be a little different from others, I wanted to at least try and articulate the meaning in my own words. In light of this month, I’m going to swallow my pride (See what I did there?) and write a little post about what this all means to me:

I’ve always been, in some way, a closed book, and that’s because of a lot of reasons. I’m someone who has tried to steer away from attention and anything that involves the word pride all together. I’ve never been one to call myself a prideful person because I have spent a great deal of my life putting energy into covering up something that plays such a prominent role in who I am as a person. The world is scary, life is hard, and for so long I was not someone who was about to tell my world something so personal about myself…until recently…. and for that, I am proud.

Like many, I am terrified of being vulnerable and did not want anyone to think of me differently, or any less, after I told them about this part of me that was hidden for so long. When society tells you to be a certain way, it is tough to go against it. For so long, I was actually very stubborn and didn’t think it was anyone’s business to know about my personal life, or who I dated, etc. Granted, it isn’t anyone’s business anyway, but when you date someone of the same sex, it seems to suddenly turn into the topic of all conversation. I slowly, but surely, began to realize that this was not necessarily the case, and there is no shame in loving who you love, and being who you are. I can thank my supportive and amazing group of friends for always being there, and having my back throughout these times in my life.

Pride, to me, is not necessarily carrying a flag in a parade or shouting to everyone in the streets. (For the record, I’m not putting the gay pride parade down in any way because I will most likely be there – It’s just not what I want to make this all about.) To me, it’s not about being proud to be gay, or bi, or whatever your heart desires. For me, it is simply being proud of myself for taking those tiny steps to have the courage to come out to myself, and my friends and say, hey I like women as well. I love who I love, and that’s who I am.

I am not all the way out, so I’m proud of myself for even having the courage to write this post publicly. I still have a long way to go, but having the courage to even take those steps is what pride means to me. I was even reluctant to write this post at first, because who would actually care about what I had to say? But there I was again, caring more about what other people thought, rather than just saying – fuck it, who cares what people think.

Maybe this post will resonate with someone else who is in a similar position as I am. If it does, I’m thankful for that and would like to say to you, please don’t be afraid to take the first step….someone cares, someone is in the exact same position as you, and they are waiting to hear from you. You’re not alone.

Pride is to be free of what society labels you and to choose who you want to be every moment of your life. Don’t forget that there is beauty in being self-expressed, but it is also terrifying. So, take your time, and take pride in your love.

Thank you for reading!