People across the world recognize the month of June as Pride month. It is a time of recognition for the LGBTQ+ community, and remembrance of the countless activists, victims, and figures before us who fought and sacrificed so much of themselves for same-sex equality, gender rights, and transgender rights.
Over seven years after I came out, I walked in Long Beach, California’s Pride Parade on Sunday, May 21, 2017. While I attended other Pride celebrations before this one, I never actually marched in a parade. A little older, a little wiser, and with much more life experience and perspective, I found myself with a whole new appreciation for pride and what it means to march.
Quite honestly, I did not plan on attending any Pride parades this year. I attended Long Beach Pride back in 2010 after I first came out, which overwhelmed me like no other. Last year, I attended San Francisco Pride, which was a lot of fun, but a complete whirlwind weekend. Over the years, I celebrated Pride and the LGBTQ+ community in various ways such as parties, events, social justice projects, et cetera. This year…I was just over it. It’s not that I didn’t want to or see the need to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, I just found myself in a place in my life where I thought I did not need to celebrate it for myself. However, I was wrong.
A dear professor of mine from college, and now great friend, invited me to march with her, her family, and the organization she worked with at this year’s Pride in Long Beach. I thought it would be fun, not necessarily for Pride itself, but to spend time with her. Additionally, my best friend was in town, so she only added to what would be a great day.
Naturally, I witnessed many walks of life at Pride. I felt so empowered seeing not only seeing my professor raising and teaching her kids love and respect towards LGBTQ+ people, but also the countless families there who continue to do the same. I felt humbled (and old) seeing the many preteens, teenagers, and young college kids who are out, proud, identify as trans+, identify in their own way—and do so with confidence and the support from their people around them. Seven years ago, I couldn’t do that; the world I came out in didn’t embrace as much as the world does today. Lastly, in a symbolic way, I felt empowered by being the one who marched, not the person I was seven years ago who looked up at those who marched, wishing I had the strength to do the same.
Despite what I felt, this year’s Pride for me was about the love and support from the people around me in my life. What made that day special were my two dear friends, both straight allies, who continue to exude nothing but love, support, and a stance for the community and me. For every Westboro Baptist Church protester at the parade who made every effort to tear down the community, there was a laugh and a hug to remind me of how little those people are. For every person shouting hateful comments, there were words of love, reminding me that I’m not alone. What I learned this time around is the power and importance of my allies. It’s not that I can’t “do this” alone, it’s that I don’t want to. Fortunately, I’m glad that I don’t have to. For me, I honored my allies.
Cover image property of: Eastman