What PRIDE Means To Me
June is national PRIDE month. I’m lucky, here in Rochester, we celebrate PRIDE in July – but most other folks in this country celebrate in June – so we Rochester folks get twice as much fun!
National Pride month is a time to celebrate, reflect, remember, and advocate. Pride is celebrated in this country in June to honor the Stonewall Riots that served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. There are many places you can find out more about the history behind PRIDE, and I encourage you to seek those out. But this entry is about what Pride means to me, personally.
I spent most of my school years getting terribly bullied. No matter what gang of friends I hung out with, I never quite fit in. Mostly for reasons that didn’t have to do with my sexual orientation, but it didn’t help that I never quite fit in with the girls and all their crushes. There were people I thought were cute, but I wasn’t infatuated by thoughts of boys, or girls, or sex. I was, however, infatuated with the idea of being in love.
I became sexually active fairly young, because that’s what my friends did. I liked a boy and so that’s what you do eventually. I married at age 19, and at that point I still had not questioned my sexual orientation.
Eventually, through a marriage ending, and meeting a LOT of queer people, I started to identify as bisexual (eventually pansexual) because I was definitely attracted to more than one gender. After my divorce I dated a transman who opened up my eyes and world to so many more colors of the rainbow than I had been aware of.
And then I went to my first Rochester PRIDE parade and festival. I believe I had already started volunteering at the Gay Alliance and therefore walked in the parade with them, and volunteered for the festival. My very first parade, I was overwhelmed. I knew very few people at that time yet I felt totally at home. The spirit was amazing. My soul felt genuinely happy, and I was hooked on all things queer.
I had already come out as bi, and poly, and eventually grabbed some other alphabet soup labels including pan-romantic, greysexual, and queer. I’ve been to every Rochester Pride Parade and Festival since. I hated missing 2020 PRIDE more than anything else we missed in the pandemic, and because there was no one doing PRIDE 2021, I helped organize and run several “pop-up” pride events in Rochester through the month of July. It’s my favorite time of the year.
Every single year during PRIDE, there is at least one moment when I turn around and look and see just an absolute sea of rainbow and love. Roc PRIDE was the only time I saw that. In recent years, the joy has spread, but Roc PRIDE bring tears to my eyes every time. When we moved to Martin Luther King Jr Park, and then at Cobb’s Hill – I would walk around a corner, or a tree, and gasp. And stand there and let myself have a moment.
PRIDE to me means hope, and love, and joy, and community. It means remembering and honoring those who paved the way for us. It’s about celebrating the new generation of LGBTQ+ trailblazers. It’s about rainbows and friendships and love. For me, a person who always struggles to feel like I fit in, being at the ROC PRIDE parade brings me a sense of belonging that I can’t describe. Seeing the smile, joy, and freedom on so any faces – young and old – is just better for me than any therapy in the world.
Happy Pride Everyone!