I’m ashamed to admit that up until today I was disgusted by Pride parades. The images in my mind of shirtless men in speedos, drag queens performing outrageously, and public displays of affection made me want to disaffiliate my own community.
“No wonder people don’t take gays seriously when they act like this,” I complained all too frequently.
What I failed to realize was that their unapologetic celebration of their sexualities was not hedonism, nor for pleasure alone. It took 50 innocent souls dying for me to recognize that Pride is bravery.
Every single member of the LGBTQ+ community who attends Pride makes a radical statement without saying anything. By publicly identifying as a member of this community, each person puts himself or herself at risk. These dangers don’t always mean a tragic mass shooting — though this is the most strikingly painful example of them. Sometimes attending Pride means risking being ostracized by your family if a photo surfaces online. Sometimes attending Pride means peacefully ignoring hateful slurs from protestors, as my friend Emery experienced while volunteering in Nashville. By attending Pride, these brothers and sisters show that they are not afraid of the consequences, and even if they do have fears, their courage is stronger.
At Pride, nobody is trying to hide, and that made me uncomfortable. Rather than compulsively attempting to blend into a heteronormative society, Pride flaunts homosexuality.
What I saw as disgraceful or trashy is actually a bold subversion, a shameless expression that demands for recognition. The point is to be “in your face” for a day or a week or a month of the year, and I apologize for not appreciating that.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve strived to be as “inoffensive” as possible. I’ve frequently told others and myself, “I am more than my sexuality” and believed I was doing so to remain authentic. Whether in my dress, mannerisms, interests, or actions, I’ve made sure to distance myself from what I perceive as the typical homosexual. I always assumed that by never going “too far” I’d never be at too much of a risk, sort of like how Cam and Mitch remain hilarious and palatable for most television viewers because they’re virtually sexless.
For the first time, I recognize how wrong I am. I see that my rejection of Pride was somewhat of an apology for my sexuality, if not an outright rejection of it.
To all those who celebrated and mourned across the country this weekend and especially to those who lost your lives, I apologize and thank you for your courage. I promise I’ll be out there with you next year.