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What Pride Means to Me

What Pride Means to Me

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I was 19 when I attended my first Pride parade and had been out less than a year. I was eager to demonstrate just how gay I'd become in the months leading up to that sunny June day in Milwaukee, and elected to dress in gold spandex shorts and a see-through tank top with "boys" emblazoned on it.

My understanding of Pride has refined itself over time, deepening alongside my growing appreciation of my community and its history. Today I see Pride as many things: a chance to champion those who've come before us, paving the way for the rights and protections the LGBTQ community has in today's society. Pride is also a reminder that we should never take our achievement for granted, and that battles fought yesterday may need to be fought again tomorrow. Sometimes Pride is not only about celebration, but also about resistance. But as I sat in a 7-Eleven parking lot that summer, slurping a vodka-infused slushie, I had only one goal: feel desirable. Not so easy when you find yourself projectile vomiting into a bush. But that's insecurity for you.

The time was 11:30 in the morning, and, well-juiced from the vodka; I made a play for a blonde musical theater grad before despoiling the foliage. Call it misguided, but I knew how to walk away with my head held high. I'd made out with a stranger, and conquered my sexual anxiety, in spite of my cystic acne and helmet-like haircut.


I've since adjusted my tactics for attending Pride (though that's not to say the "boys" tank top hasn't made several more appearances on sweaty afternoons across America.) I've spent more recent Prides in ankle-length skirts on stoops in New York's East Village alongside a mixture of drag queens and eager NYU students. There's been a shortage of kissing but who cares when you are happily squished between a pair of dancing men in briefs with plastic roses hot-glued to the crotch.

Not all my Pride memories are meaningful and enlightening: I'm not proud of the weird mesh crop tops, or the times I've gotten wildly drunk. But I am proud to call myself queer and to count myself a part of our incredible community. And, ultimately, I think that's what Pride is about: recognizing just how amazing our queer sisters are -- not only today's sisters, but those that have come before. It's not just about smacking some glitter on your cheeks and waving a flag, fun though that can be. It's about dressing so you feel your best, actively working to figure out who and what you truly identify as, and flaunting your image, however unorthodox or outlandish. It's about holding your head high, knowing there's so much more work to be done so that, someday, everyone in our community feels like they can march down the street without fear, as proud of themselves and their spirits as the next person.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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