My Hopes For My First Pride

6/30/2017

By Another Believer via Wikimedia Commons

Pride is the ultimate celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, commemorating the movement spurred on by those brave people who stood up for their human rights at the Stonewall Inn by bringing allies and LGBTQ+ individuals together to celebrate our lives. I’ve haven’t been to a Pride celebration since I came out a little over two years ago, but I have been to one before, one that had a profound impact on me.

It was during the summer I spent in NYC, working as an intern and staying in the NYU dorms, which just so happened to be on the same street that the Pride parade went down. At this point in my life, I knew that I was bi, I just hadn’t come out yet. So, I didn’t make any plans with friends that day; I wasn’t even planning on going down to the parade. However, even hours before the parade began, the exciting atmosphere moved me to head down to at least see how the day would develop.

I found a spot on a corner right outside my dorm and stood for hours, watching as hundreds of people paraded by in ways that I had literally never seen before: there were amazingly outrageous and beautiful costumes, incredible floats, and fantastically choreographed dancing. However, as fantastic as all of those were, the most incredible part of the celebration to me was simply the people; people celebrating Pride and coming together to love and support each other in countless different ways.

There were those marching in the parade, some politically, some for fun, but all proud. There were also more subtle participants in the crowd, not marching along but still showing support and pride in their own way, like the two men standing near me, who were simply holding hands, calmly watching the parade with smiles on their faces. Or the pair of women standing together, one with a little girl holding an “I Love My Mommies!” sign on her shoulders.

For someone like me, a person from a small, central IL town with a virtually non-existent LGBTQ+ community, it was life-changing. That day inspired me; I wanted to be a person who was living without fear, someone who was able to offer my support and participation in both Pride and other events throughout the year. It was only a few months later that I came out and I thank NYC Pride for helping me to get to that point.

It has been a little over two years since I came out and, due to unfortunate timing issues, I have yet to make it to a Pride celebration as an out and proud participant. Fortunately this year, the stars have aligned and I will be attending my first one in my new home, Chicago.

Needless to say, I’m excited.

However, I’m not sure entirely what to expect. Part of me has wondered if I have romanticized the idea of Pride since my one experience there, particularly as someone who identifies as bi. Will I be accepted? Or will people have an issue with me “not committing” (as it has been put to me before by a gay man) to the gay community?

I know that there are issues with Pride (and within the LGBTQ+ community overall) that need to be addressed, like fair and equal representation of races, body types, orientations and more; I know because I’ve seen countless articles expressing concern over these problems year after year. I know because, as a bi man, I face these kinds of issues all of the time. Sadly, in some cases, I’ve seen that it makes a person leave the idea of Pride behind and no longer participate.

Maybe it’s naive of me to think this, but I don’t believe leaving the celebration will solve these issues; it’ll only further the divide. Maybe my tune will change after my first Pride experience, but in it’s very essence, Pride is about celebrating who you are and being proud; there has to be a place in that for everyone, right? If not, create one for yourself and others like you.

It really is heartbreaking to me to think that people go to Pride and feel left out or ostracized; I know I have felt that way several times as a bi man. But Pride is the one place where I plan on not letting any of the naysayers get me down. If you’re at Pride and you’re being judgmental, mean, or anything other than supportive, you really need to review what Pride is all about.

I am excited for my first Pride experience without a doubt, but I can’t pretend there isn’t a bit of nervousness too. I hope I can dance, sing, revel with friends, and enjoy being in a space free of judgement. My first experience, when in the closet, was life-changing, I can only hope the first time attending as an out and proud bi man will be just as great.

 

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.