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Journal: What PRIDE means to me...

Journal: What PRIDE means to me...

Happy Pride!

I've been reflecting this June- Pride Month- as my friends come out or come out again or come out in support, on how sometimes all the words and terms we use now to define/refine and explain our unique identity compositions can feel a little overwhelming (or unnecessary, to older generations).

As somebody who has done a-lot of exploring and soul searching, as somebody who took a long time to discover and then become comfortable with who she is, and then had to become comfortable with that identity constantly sliding along spectrums, I'm so glad we have the language to talk about this now. I'm glad for the sacrifices and tenacity and insight of the people who found these words and persisted in forcing them into the cultural dialogue and then normalizing both the words and the people who they attach to. Pride reminds me of this. When I was first growing into myself, the only word I had to describe the mess of attractions boiling in me was "bi". It wasn't the right word but it was the only word, and I wore it like a ill-fitting jacket gifted by a well meaning but misguided relative. I wore it with mixed pride and shame, with both defiance and a paragraph of disclaimers, qualifications, and conditions attached. I still use the word, when brevity and a more general understanding is called for.

As I was composing this post, I was going to also use the word "asexual", but that wasn't fitting quite right. So I hit the internet and found a better more nuanced word. Today, I am comfortable...nay, revel...in my identity as a woman. As a biromantic*. As a greysexual**. As a inherently monogamous person who prefers polyamorous*** relationships. I'm still sifting thru which parts of me are rooted in authenticity and which in trauma. Being able to do that in the wide ocean of possibility gives me the freedom to grow, instead of being stifled in the narrow boxes of the past.

Pride reminds me of this.

*Bi-romantic: Experiences romantic attraction to 2 or more genders

**Greysexual- only experiences sexual attraction to few, if any, people. Sexual desire may be only felt for persons for whom they have an emotional or other connection first.

***Polyamorous: Consensual non-monogamy-may mean romantic or sexual or both relationships with more than one person at the same time, with the knowledge and consent of all persons involved. While I rarely have the interest or emotional energy for more than one partner at a time, I also feel that I am unequal to the task of meeting all my partners emotional and/or sexual needs and encourage them to seek other relationships if they so desire. The most important thing for me, in any relationship, is total and near radical honesty.

Beautiful weather for PDXPride!

Beautiful weather for PDXPride!

 

Portland always puts on an amazing Pride parade, and this year-the 50 year anniversary of Stonewall-was no exception, indeed it was exceptional. For almost 3 hours a full rainbow spectrum of gays, dykes, aces, bi’s, queens, allies and more poured down Davis St. towards the Waterfront Park. The sidewalks were crowded with flags waving and perpetual bubbles drifted across the parade-walkers. Really, visually it is too much to describe and virtually impossible to describe to somebody who has never been.

The 501st Legion marching in Pride. May the Force Be With Them.

The 501st Legion marching in Pride. May the Force Be With Them.

Why you should go to a Pride Parade (even if you are straight, or introverted, or in the closet, or whatever).

We fear things we do not know. The queer community may be alien to some (even after knowing for years that I myself was bi, I didn’t know what it meant to be a member of that community until I went to a Pride celebration). This is a chance to interact with your queer neighbors, co-workers, and friends in absolutely best way: on a day where anything goes and often does, on a day when everybody is filled with joy, love, and safety. You can observe the mingled celebration of identity but also learn about the challenges, history, and threats to the queer community.

My first Pride I was really afraid to go, honestly. I didn’t know what to expect, and that always gives me anxiety. I was going alone, and that was scary and hard. I was still too in the closet to let my rainbow colors show, and felt like if I came a queer, I would feel like an imposter, and I was afraid that if I didn’t look gay I would be seen as straight, and therefore an interloper. Which all seems laughable in hindsight. The reality was, nobody cared. Nobody asked me to prove my right to be there. Nobody assumed anything. Nobody made me feel threatened or pushed against my comfort level. Nobody made me feel anything less than welcome and loved and supported. Nobody told me I was confused, or in a phase, or wrong. I just…belonged. A quiet little queer who felt mostly straight, and I totally belonged here.

Pride reminds me of this.

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I don’t really know my queer history. I discovered my sexuality at a point when it was safer to do so than any other point in history before then, probably. And it’s pretty much more or less only gotten safer since. At Pride, I see how little the older generations are represented, and I suddenly remember with some horror why that is. I learn about the riots and the murders, the illnesses and the stigmas, the ignorance and the discrimination and how our right to exist is still an uphill battle soaked in blood and sacrifice.

Pride reminds me of this.

The next generation. We march so they don’t have to.

The next generation. We march so they don’t have to.

This year, I watched adorable couples of all configurations share pecks on the lips without fear or shame. I watched teenagers wearing trans flags like capes marching in a formation, experiencing the rarity of being in a group of peers who get them whereas I am willing to bet many of them experience daily the isolation that comes from being the only trans kids in their entire school. I experienced an almost unimaginable phenomena of not feeling sexualized or objectified or threatened or harassed by ANY of the men around me. Straight men, you need to take lessons from the gays on how to touch, help, and sweet talk a woman without making her feel like you have another agenda.

I’m waiting in line to get in the Pride Fair and a woman in a wheelchair is trying to get across the line in front of me. I suddenly become aware of her presence and quickly step back to give her the space she needs to get thru. In doing so, I stumble into the couple behind me. I’d been noticing them all day, they were positioned near me during the parade, and then again at the crosswalk. One of the men is the model in the relationship: he loves to strike a pose and knows he looks great. His boyfriend or husband or whoever clearly loves to photograph him, and I caught him sneaking pictures of his super model partner every chance he could while the other pretended not to notice and casually posed. I stumble backwards into the model and he catches me and gets me back on my feet. The touch should have felt intimate-both of us were wearing more skin than clothes and the touch lasted longer than a few heartbeat. At every other point I can remember, this kind of touch from a strange man would have felt like an invasion, no matter how accidental or well intentioned. As I regained my balance, he crooned something in my ear about “Let’s get you back on your feet sweetheart” and for the first time ever, the endearment just made me feel a little warm and smiley instead of instantly guarded. His boyfriend beamed at me and the line moved forward. The best way I can describe it is that so much of the attention I receive from men feels hostile and I feel like I have a forcefield up around me all the time that is constantly triggered. At Pride, my forcefield didn’t buzz once. I didn’t even know that I don’t feel safe all the time until I felt REALLY safe. And as far as queerness goes, I figure I fall just a little bit outside of societal norms. Just a little bit gay. How must the world feel for those who fall even further out on the spectrum of not straight?

Pride reminds me of this.

Superheroes were everywhere at Pride.

Superheroes were everywhere at Pride.

If you are not a regular part of the queer community, you likely do not realize how much its members have to dim their colors just to survive our society UNTIL you see them at full wattage. And then you realize how much color fear and hate is leeching out of this world when so many people all around you only feel safe to truly shine one day a year. I found myself wishing that our world was as gay as downtown Portland was this weekend every day of the year. Where everybody around me was PROUD every day of who they are; I wish we lived in a world where everybody could show the world who they are with rainbow capes fluttering behind them every day of the year instead of having to keep it under the skin out of fear.

Pride reminds me of this.

And so, reminded, I leave Pride sunburned and tired and thirsty but also loved, accepted, validated, inspired and ready to FIGHT and KEEP FIGHTING until this community feels SAFE and ACCEPTED every damn day of the year.

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The Adventure Begins, or, What I'm All About, or, Start Here...

The Adventure Begins, or, What I'm All About, or, Start Here...

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