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WHAT DOES PRIDE MEAN TO YOU? HAS IT CHANGED?

THE BEGINNING

Pride like many things, is something that means vastly different things to different people. Whether it be two gay men, who people would often assume would associate the same thoughts and feelings with pride. Or a sibling of someone who watched the process of their loved one come out. Each one would have a vastly different perspective… a perspective that would come from their vantage point. They could have watched someone they loved possibly struggle to come to terms with themselves. Or witnessed someone never be anything but themselves from the very beginning. So that is where I have chosen to focus my story, on the beginning. All that came with it, the good and the bad, and what brought me forward to where I am now.

WHAT PRIDE MEANS TO ME

I was asked what pride meant to me by a friend recently. It was for a PRIDE project her new company Next Society LA was doing. I said yes, but it was a something I really wanted to put time into thinking about. I came out at what I personally associate to be a late, at the age of 22. Everyone’s idea of what is late or early in coming out is different, and completely okay. Just when I look back on my experience, I wish I had done it sooner.

I didn’t wait because I was ashamed of being gay. In an all honestly, I didn’t want to deal with the entirety of the process of coming out. It seemed unfair. That only those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community have to come out to everyone. It seemed like a lot of work to have to come out to everyone. Especially when I didn’t believe or feel that I owed them anything. But as I approaching turning thirty two months after pride last year, my viewpoint changed.

A SEA OF CHANGE

I remember seeing the movie Love, Simon a couple of years ago. They parodied the process of coming out in high school, but for straight kids. Simon wonders why only gay people have to come out, and he’s right! They show a montage of his straight peers faux-coming out to. The reactions were the same ones you often see when gay people come out to their loved ones. Extreme happiness, pride, anger, shock, etc. It posed a very valid question. Why do only gay people have to come out? Even producer Greg Berlanti and Nick Robinson (who played Simon) spoke to this in press interviews. It can be a short or long process, and filled with many emotions. A lot of which you can’t prepare for, for everyone involved. I remember thinking when I saw it that it was the same process I had no desire to go through.

MY PRIDE JOURNEY BEGINS

The year I came out, I also began dating my first boyfriend and had my first real relationship. During the first 6 months of our relationship, I still wasn’t out. I often asked myself how real could it be, if I was till keeping it to myself. And why was I still hiding it? I was not like I was ashamed of my relationship at all, it was actually quite the opposite. I was the happiest I ever had been with him. So while I was relishing this newfound happiness, it was only being shared with him, his family whom I adored, and his friends. But why? Because I didn’t want the “ordeal” of coming out to everyone in my life? From that perspective, it seemed silly.

That summer I came out to my best friend. I then realized that I was not only doing myself a huge disservice in hiding this relationship. But I was inadvertently minimizing someone so important to me and that I loved by doing so. Like I said before, it wasn’t because I was ashamed, it was because I was lazy. Which isn’t a great thing to look back and reflect on to be honest. But it would be pointless to write about pride and what it means to me and lie. So I began what I assumed was going to be the long process of individually coming out to people. Well with me being me, I inevitably sped it up pretty quickly.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

I called my first boyfriend a couple weeks ago to ask him what he remembered of how I came out to my dad, which is who I came out to first. He proceeded to reminisce telling me that I had called my dad and bluntly stated, “Hey so I’m dating someone, and you are going to meet my boyfriend and I for dinner tomorrow night. We will see you then.” Straight and to the point, sounds like me. I remember the night we all went to dinner together so vividly, and I was extremely uncomfortable. Which is understandable since this was the first person I was sitting down to not only come out to, but also share with them someone I was in love with.

I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be accepted or that he would see or love me any differently. I also know that is NOT something many people have the luxury or security of having when coming out. That shit is scary AF. This is also why I think I came out to him first, because I knew nothing bad was going to come from it. It also further made me realize I had wasted all this time hiding this part of myself for no reason, and that made me sad. The night couldn’t have gone better, they couldn’t have gotten along better, and so began the process of sharing this part of my life with the people who thought they were already privy to me in my entirety. This was in late November, and by February anyone who I cared about was well aware of the man in my life.

NOW WHAT?

Once I had come out, not much changed.I hadn’t really expected it too either. Where as my boyfriend had come out in high school and been out for quite some time, I didn’t have any newfound desire to start going to gay bars or immersing myself into that. It really held no appeal to me. While it could have been that I was still living in Newport Beach where gay culture is pretty minimal, nowhere near as prevalent as it is in LA or NYC, there was simply no allure to me. While that first love would eventually a little more than a year after it began, I know longer carried that weight on shoulders. There would be other loves, and other heartbreaks; but I wasn’t hiding anymore.

As I mentioned before, a lot of us in the LGBTQ community face many obstacles in our path to finally becoming who we truly are, and accepting it. The beginning of my story may sound as if I didn’t suffer in hiding that part of myself, but I most certainly did. The toll that leading a duel life took ultimately led me down an ugly and destructive path for awhile. So while I was fortunate in that the process of me coming out was not one that caused me physical harm, the real harm came from hiding who I was and even further by masking the harm in different ways.

EVERY PRIDE STORY IS DIFFERENT

Everyone’s stories are all different, just as their meaning of pride will all be different. I didn’t attend my first pride until last summer while I was living in New York, but I still felt like I had celebrated in pride during the years before that. But it wasn’t until I was at the events last year celebrating, that I truly understood just how much there is to be celebrated when it comes to pride. Last year my good friend Adam came to visit in New York for World Pride, and it was insane. We spent time with all my friends, his friends that were in town, and I got to see so many people who had celebrated pride for so many years, but for the first time really see how much of a CELEBRATION rather than a party Pride truly is.

The biggest moment that really hit me during World Pride last year was attending the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn, which showed me how much and for how long people fought for the rights that we are so luckily afforded now. I got have a lot of meaning conversations with people I had never meant who had been regulars there for decades. So thats what inspired me to write this story. So that there we stories out there someone could read, they way that I had wished I had been scared, confused, and felt alone.

BUT THE SAME FEELINGS

Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides every person. One that we reveal to the world, and another that we keep hidden inside. That is why I chose to share both the positive and negative sides of what I went through, because that is what its like. Mine wasn’t a sugarcoated story of a perfect coming out, its not a Sweet 16. Nor a nightmare, but a balance of what it can truly be like. I found the biggest problems come from the place I never would have seen coming… myself.

So while this pride is truly unlike any others, 2020 has been anything but gracious to anyone, there is something we as a community can take away from this. The discord that is going on can only further bind the LGBTQ community together, and it has. It has shown us that even in the darkest of times, there can always be a light at the end of the tunnel as long as we fight for it.

THE CHALLENGE

What initially got me to write about my coming out story and what pride means to me, was that my friend launched a new company. The company has an angle of change within it. Next Society LA is a brand where every month they donate 10% of all net proceeds to a different charity. She wanted her company to stand out in that it ALWAYS gives back, not just when there is a month to celebrate something. There’s a section of the company titled MOVEMENT, where each month there is a new blog call to action about that month’s topic and charity. For June its titled 002: PROUD SOCIETY, and benefits the Ali Forney Center.

This month the aim is to create a #PROUDSOCIETY. For the stories this month, they want to hear your story! Your story that may very well be exactly what someone, somewhere, really needs to hear right now. So for 002: PROUD SOCIETY, they want to hear from deep within you. What pride means to you. How it has impacted your life and the ones you love. How you strive for it to change and improve. They ask that when submitting your stories, you do so with that same pride. The goal is to not only create a Society that we are all proud to be a part of, but actively participating in the change that we wish to see.

FOUNDATIONS OF CHANGE

The following two LGBTQ foundations and donate now. The Ali Forney Center and The Trevor Project. AT&T and Warner Media are currently matching donations to The Trevor Project of up to $350,000 to reach their pride goals! As mentioned above, 10% of all proceeds from NEXT SOCIETY LA go to benefiting The Ali Forney Center.

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