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: 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: 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: 

16708601_3175701879242_1050953546547878240_n

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: 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!

Pride Month: Tierney

The writer of this post, Tierney, is someone I’ve been following on social media for quite some time now. I remember when I first stumbled upon his Instagram, I was immediately in awe of his willingness to be so vulnerable and genuinely himself. My description may not do him justice, but his social media just conveys such a great balance of passion and happiness, mixed with honesty and struggle that I find so real and beautiful.
 
 
Here are a few of Tierney’s posts that I especially love:
 
 
**You can click the pictures to make them larger**
 
 
Regardless though, I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say those posts are probably hard to read as screenshots so I highly suggest following him on Instagram here!!! I promise that you will be captivated too.
 
 
Needless to say, I knew I had to reach out to Tierney to write for my blog this month.
 
 
When I first approached this project, I felt that it was especially important for every collaborator to feel entitled to their own creative freedom. The general idea for these posts, as you will see, is the meaning of the word “pride”. But aside from that, I told each writer that they could express their ideas and feelings in whatever way(s) they wanted.
 
 
Some of these posts, like yesterday’s for example, will be coming out stories. Some will be about feelings or experiences or memories related to the LGBTQ+ community. Some will be happy. Some will be sad. And some of them will be like Tierney’s, abstract and creative, yet all the while, just as important.
 
Check out Tierney’s feelings on “pride” here: 
 
To start this off, I am sort of lost for words on how to describe pride so instead, I’m just going to try to express the feeling of pride.
 
Have you ever stuck your head out the window and closed your eyes, just to feel the wind in your hair? That feeling of just letting go and not having a single care in the world. Like taking that first lick of ice cream on a super hot day; it rushes your body and creates a feeling of satisfaction. Now close your eyes and imagine laying in the middle of a field, with the grass outlining your body, and a very light breeze of wind playing with your hair. All the sudden, a crisp feeling touches your cheek and you can sense that it’s the sun, as it pierces through the clouds and gently touches your face once again to greet you with a hello.  The warmth consumes your body and your breathing begins to slow to make one deep breath. You are finding that peaceful bliss place.
 
This is what Pride feels like to me.
 
It is a very strong emotion and it gives you a sense of strength.  I believe that is exactly how our community works as well. We are a whole, and when together, we create a sense of strength. It can become emotional because you know you will always have someone fighting on your side, regardless of what you believe in, where you come from, or how you identify. It is truly such a wonderful feeling. It is Pride.
 
Happy Pride Month,
 
Tierney