I thought I’d take a few moments to write about what Pride means to me this month. I often hear questions and comments like, “Why do they need a parade?” “Well, there isn’t a straight pride month.” I see people raise their eyebrows at the rainbows that become abundant during the month. That last one might be fair, as corporations increasingly pounce on the Pride-profit bandwagon, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.
I grew up very closeted. I had a hard time making friends, and I was terrified of losing them. I was surrounded by comments and discussions about how there was just something fundamentally wrong with homosexuality and the myth that being bisexual meant you were into threesomes. Not to mention all of the preaching about “practicing homosexuals.” I remember occasionally repeating the horrible things I heard in my attempts to fit in, and I’m thankful that my friends had the courage to reprimand me harshly. There were times when I came dangerously close to playing the part of the homophobe who was actually a closet bisexual.
For most of my life, I identified as bisexual. In a very rural conservative community, I was isolated. When I went to school for programming, the majority of my class presented as heterosexual, cisgendered men. I did manage to get a pride scholarship during my senior year of high school. It reminded me that somewhere, there were people who might accept me; not question whether or not I was just going through a phase or confused.
I never felt the need to deck myself out in rainbows, but I slowly grew out of hiding who I was. If it came up in conversation, I was honest. Some of that came with time, but mostly, I think that it came with exposure to community. To me, Pride is about celebrating community and identity. It’s about the people who want to decking themselves out in their flags and colors and making a fuss. They’re getting it all out there to remind us of how far we’ve come, and how we aren’t alone. That when we’re ready, we don’t have to hide who we are, because there are people out there who will love us for who we are.
Things have come a long way in this country, and they still have a long way to go. To me, Pride means there’s a community where I don’t have to be defensive about who I am. It has helped me to heal, accept myself, and understand myself more fully. When I see the flags and little rainbow stickers, it’s a reminder that I am welcome, as I am.