A Prideful Family

7/7/2018

Blaize Stewart and his family at Pride

Last year, a few days before the Pride Parade was set to take place in my home city of Chicago, I received a text from my mom. It read,

“Would you want us to come up this Saturday? We’d love to be a part of Pride, if you’d want us to? We wanted you to know we’d be happy to come whenever you’d like. We don’t want to intrude, but we wanted you to know how much we love and support you. We’d be there if you’d want us; just keep that in mind!”

It meant so much to read those words and we quickly began scrambling to organize a trip for them to participate, but unfortunately, due to timing, we weren’t able to get them up for the celebration that year.

However, now understanding that my parents were eager to come up to celebrate Pride with me, we began planning a trip for them to come up for the 2018 Pride celebration. When June finally rolled around again, we had a plan in place: my mom, dad, younger brother, and younger sister were all committed to come up that Friday to celebrate the Pride weekend. In anticipation of this event, my mom had a series of shirts made for us to wear as a family.

My shirt read It ain’t no lie, baby I’m BI BI BI.

My siblings’ shirts read It ain’t no lie, my brother is BI BI BI.

My parents’ shirts had My son is Bi, I don’t ask why on the front, with the back reading I am straight, but I don’t hate on the back, inspired by a shirt my mom saw on an LGBTQ History Instagram account.

It was such a special moment for me to see those shirts and to wear them out during the weekend. Such a simple gesture from my family showed me how much they really wanted to be there, how much they wanted me and everyone else to know that we are a family and that we support each other no matter what. Throughout the course of the weekend, I was asked time and time again where my shirt came from and I was so proud to say that it came from my family.

It was one of many instances that I felt proud to have my family there with for Pride. As we hopped from bar to bar throughout the course of that Saturday, they embodied the true spirit of Pride celebrations: connecting with new people and exploring and understanding new perspectives from others. I’m positive that there were some experiences that might have made them at least a little bit uncomfortable or confused, but there was never a moment that they complained or were anything but open and accepting.

As we geared up for the Pride Parade on Sunday, I tried my best to explain what they should expect. I even gave a little toast before we headed out to share how my first Pride totally changed my life and how I hoped they would experience something similar as well. We made it to the parade and worked our way into the crowds, and my mom certainly had one of those moments. She stopped and said something along the lines of, “This is incredible…all of these people here, celebrating love…it’s just amazing!”

During the weekend, I realized that I had yet another life-changing moment at Pride as well. I’ve always known I am incredibly blessed to have the family I do, but after this weekend, one in which they took time out of their busy lives to come visit and make sure that I felt loved, supported, and accepted, I was truly struck by how lucky I am.

I am lucky to have a father who has never once tried to change me into any other version of myself; he has always, unequivocally let me be me and never once hesitated to let me know how proud he is of me.

I am lucky to have a mother who constantly wants to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and how she can help others like me, who struggled for so long, and their parents find understanding and acceptance.

I am lucky to have an older brother (who sadly was unable to attend this year’s Pride, as he is in the Peace Corps in Africa) who makes sure that I know I have his love and support even with an entire ocean between us.

I am lucky to have a younger brother who would fight tooth and nail to defend me from those who are against the person I am and who has never once had an issue heading to Boystown to dance the night away.

I am lucky to have a younger sister who constantly encourages me to be my authentic self and is always the first one to volunteer to support me in anything I do within the LGBTQ+ community.

It baffles my mind, how lucky I truly am to call these people my family. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if they weren’t always there in my corner; I’m not even sure I would be here at all if it wasn’t for them. I am so, so proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but words cannot express how proud I am to be a part of this incredible family. Thank you for allowing me to be the person I am, and thank you more for giving me the courage and strength to share that person with the rest of the world.

Blaize Stewart
Blaize Stewart is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a BA in broadcast journalism and a MA in journalism. He currently lives in Chicago, IL and works as an influencer relations associate for a full-service influencer marketing agency called Faam and as an adjunct instructor at Robert Morris University. Additionally, he runs the LGBTQ+ blog Out Loud, a space for members to share their experiences and thoughts on current events and more.