Queer Life and Culture

My Pride Experience Tiptoeing Into Pride

Welcome to My Pride Experience!

My Pride Experience is a series where contributors share their experiences with Pride celebrations. These can be good, bad, or in between. Join us on our journey to discover how Pride is celebrated and experienced by members of our own community.

Do you want to share your own Pride experience? Contact us at fashionablyfemme [at] gmail.com

Tiptoeing Into Pride

by Alice Kathryn Hawkins

CW: conservative religiosity and lack of LGBT+ acceptance, sex and sexuality

I’m so excited that June is here and it’s time to celebrate Pride Month with friends, loved ones, and strangers.

Pride is still a little bit new for me. It was only in the last several years that I even knew that June was Pride Month (I grew up in a very conservative religious world – luckily, one I walked away from soon after college). Each year now I have been learning more about the history of Pride and am continually humbled as I learn new stories about those who fought yesterday and fight today for LGBT+ recognition, acceptance, and equality. I recognize that it is because of these individuals that we can celebrate as we do with colorful exuberance, and I feel honored to be a part of this brilliant celebration.

Pride is also new to me because I didn’t always consider myself a part of this community. For most of my life, I never experienced romantic or sexual attraction to other people of the same gender. Until one day I just…did. I had a marked day 1 of bisexuality/pansexuality. One of my partners helped me to understand that sexuality can be fluid and changing, as was the case for me. In the last year, I also came to recognize that I am demisexual. Learning the difference between different attraction types was life-changing, and I realized that while aesthetic and sensual attraction are things I feel more easily, I only experience sexual attraction and desire as a means of forming, strengthening, and expressing emotional connection with very specific individuals and only in certain circumstances.

It can be easy to feel invisible or erased as a demi bi/pan individual. If I were to come to a Pride event with one of my partners (I am also polyamorous), we would look like a straight couple. Having heard so many people’s stories of gatekeeping and bi erasure, I’ve been a little bit reluctant to attend a city-wide Pride event out of fear of being dismissed as someone who doesn’t belong. I want to face this fear and other social anxieties and attend a Pride Parade or Festival one of these upcoming years, but I haven’t been able to just yet.

I’ve instead celebrated Pride in the last few years at parties thrown by friends where most of us wear rainbow attire, laugh and dance together, and all end up covered in someone else’s glitter by the end of the day. I am incredibly lucky to have a group of friends and partners both in Chicago and my hometown who have been nothing but accepting and helpful in my journey of self-discovery. As is my style, I feel like I’ve tiptoed slowly into this community as I have learned about its past and present and have found new ways to love that I was never allowed to question or consider previously.

So this year, I want to keep in focus those who can’t be as open and loud about their identity and those who might not be able to attend large celebrations.

For those who can’t be open because of lack of acceptance from family,

for those who worry that being out would mean losing a job or educational opportunity,

for those who find it too difficult to attend Pride events because of physical or mental illness,

for those who feel erased or that the gate has been closed on you,

for those who want to celebrate but aren’t sure you’re queer enough,

this Pride is for you.

Being proud during the month of June often looks like rainbow *everything* or orientation flags and parades and I cannot express how happy I am to see all of this. I experience it as a celebration of how far our society has come and how much understanding and acceptance has been gained as we continue to learn and recognize more and continue to fight for equality because, of course, we still have an incredibly long way to go.

Pride, however, can also look much quieter but still be just as powerful.

Pride, for you, might be a small symbol or piece of jewelry you wear to affirm your identity.

Pride might be a love letter passed secretly.

Pride might be an outfit that makes you feel like you’re dressing like yourself more than you ever did before today.

Pride might be studying LGBT+ history or learning what these new words all mean or even creating brand new words for sexual and gender orientation and attraction that haven’t been accurately described yet.

Pride might be a knowing look between strangers in the grocery store when queer recognizes queer.

Pride is knowing and discovering who you are – you might not have the right words to describe who you are just yet, and that’s ok.

You are worth being proud of.

I also want to reserve space in this celebration, too, for allies who want to celebrate and honor the LGBT+ community and history. As I mentioned, I grew up in a world that was far from accepting and I feel like I have years of catching up to do in learning about sexual and gender diversity. I never would have gotten to where I am now had it not been for allies who originally taught me how to simply be a decent human being and to accept and celebrate those in the LGBT+ community.

I look forward to seeing how the future of Pride unfolds as we keep learning how to honor each other, keep sharing the stories of the riot that started this tradition and each person who made Pride possible, and encourage the growth of acceptance, respect, love, and inclusion in the various ways we celebrate Pride. Thank you for accepting me for who I am and as I have changed and become. Thank you for each time you have shown yourself this acceptance and self-love as well. I am so proud of you and proud of all of us.

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