My First Pride: Expectations vs. Reality 

7/8/2017

In a blaze of rainbow-fueled fun, my first Pride celebration ever flew by in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Going into the weekend I had my expectations, all based on the one Pride parade I watched while still in the closet. And while I can’t say my first Pride was everything I expected, it was certainly amazing. I think a more accurate way to say it is that, as a closeted spectator, I really didn’t know what to expect so the experience of attending while out is something I could never have imagined.

However, the main thing I was hoping to experience was a sense of community and, in most respects, I did. I saw people of all colors, genders, orientations, and body types out and about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and advocating for continued positive progress; or perhaps they were just there partying, but still the fact that they were there was significant to me.

At one point, I actually got annoyed because I was having such a hard time getting through all the visitors to make it to the parade; a trip that would normally take me 20 minutes wound up being over an hour and a half. At one point I was about to complain to my friends…until I realized how inconsiderate that would be. How could I complain about it taking a little extra time to get around the city when the reason for the delays was due to the massive amount of people who wanted to be a part of the celebration?

Aside from that very brief spell of travel irritation, I had an amazing time throughout the entire weekend. I danced, I drank, I met new people, hung out with old friends and not once did I ever feel the need to contain the LGBTQ+ side of myself.

Sure, as a bi man, I got a few “Bisexuals aren’t a thing” comments, but most people were supportive and, quite frankly, interested to hear my opinions on gender and sexual orientation. It made me realize that while Pride is a celebration, it is also a chance to learn more and challenge your own preconceived notions of what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Another important point I took away from the weekend was that there is no right way to celebrate Pride; you have to celebrate how you want to and not let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

If you want to dress up in an outrageous outfit, do it. If you wanna take your shirt off and spend your night on the dance floor, do it. If you want to march in the parade with a sign in hand protesting, do it. As long as you’re there being a part of the Pride celebration in any sense, then you are being a part of something positive and great for the LGBTQ+ community.

While the romanticized version of Pride in my head did not match the reality per se, I prefer the new, real experience to the one I created in my head as a spectator. It made me feel like I was a part of something, that these are real people and the experience mattered on a personal level and a larger scale.

It might seem trivial, but walking down the street in rainbow shorts and getting high fives instead of sneers was an incredible experience for me. Little things like that, which make you feel like you belong when for so many of us that has not always been the case, really made Pride for me.

It might be a year away, but I’m already looking forward to celebrating again next year; I’m sure with each new Pride, my perspective will change and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn from my Pride experiences each and every year.

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.