Ah, Pride. What a wonderful, difficult time. Wonderful, because of a multitude of queer people and issues highlighted in the media, because of parades and marches, because summer and sunshine and friends. Difficult, because of rainbow capitalism, ‘allies’ who party but don’t stay for the fight, and the discomfort of seeing others thriving and happy when you feel everything but that.
Lately, I have especially connected to the more difficult side of Pride. I cannot help noticing how incredibly jaded I felt the minute June 1st rolled around. It was a stark contrast to the year before, where I danced and laughed in a sea of people, my confidence and love for my friends seeming to eclipse all else. This time, as I stood still in a swarming mass of rainbow clad individuals, claustrophobia and discomfort crept up the back of my neck, and I longed to extract myself from the crowds and recover on the soft grass of the park. A proud extrovert, I couldn’t seem to place a finger on the discomfort and isolation that took hold of me in that crowd.
I have always told myself that I would be as out and proud as possible. My family and friends, many of them queer people themselves, are incredibly accepting, and as a white, cisgender queer teen living in Massachusetts, I acknowledge that I have it far better than many queer people in the United States and across the world. And yet, despite living where I do and being surrounded by people whom I love, I still often find it incredibly hard to connect to the sense of ‘pride’ that I am supposed to feel each June. Perhaps it has something to do with my school. A conservative and constrictive charter school, my high school does not put any effort into fostering an open and loving environment. Or perhaps I feel this way due to the the rainbow capitalism that has monopolized Pride, to the point where it feels incredibly performative and fake. Or perhaps it is the internalized homophobia/queerphobia that seems ingrained in every queer person. Or maybe it’s a mix of all of these things.
Whatever it is, all I know is that these feelings came rushing out of me one day at school. After the day was mostly over, a group of my peers gathered around and talked about some issues that had been on our minds, regarding politics, current events, and other things like that. As the conversation progressed, we got to a point where we began to discuss LGBTQ+ issues. The discussion ranged from Pride, and the nuances behind who belongs at Pride, to or own understandings of our sexuality, and more. As I drove home later that day, I felt a new lightness in the air that I had not felt in a long time. It was a simple, friendly conversation, and yet it was incredibly liberating.
For the first time all month, perhaps all year, I began to feel a new sensation. Instead of the jaded discomfort that I had recently felt in regards to Pride and my queerness, I felt more empowered and confident than I had in a long time. It’s not that our conversation was incredibly deep or enlightened, or even very nuanced, but it just felt so good to be seen, listened to, and heard. For once, I felt that people wanted to hear what I had to say, and wanted to learn from my perspective. For once, I felt empowered to use my voice, with no nagging shame of being ‘too much’ or ‘too angry.’ I could be angry because other people, despite being different than me, were angry as well. And that experience was incredibly, powerfully liberating for me.
I want to be clear that I am not a changed person because of a causal conversation, and clearly conversations will not radically change the world for the better. But I did learn something from that experience. While it varies from place to place, I bet that somewhere, whether on the internet or standing right next to you, there are people who see you for who you are, and empathize with your struggles. After engaging with current events regarding queer issues, it can seem like the whole world is against you, and sometimes we need a reminder that not every cishet person thinks that way.
If I often forget this, keeping my opinions to myself as I don’t think that anyone around me will understand or agree with me. And yet, that is perhaps the worst mistake. After a long, hard year, there was nothing that I needed more than an open and honest conversation with people who sympathized with my feelings. And perhaps we all needed that.
I’m not saying to try and engage every cisgender heterosexual person you know in a conversation about pride, as clearly not everyone is an ally and your safety is more important than a conversation. However, it is genuinely important not to write people off as ignorant just because they may not come from the same experiences. Also, you never know who is questioning or still in the closet, so starting a conversation about LGBTQ+ issues may be exactly what someone needs to hear.
So, if you’ve been feeling distanced from the feelings of pride and joy that June implies, remember the liberating power that somewhere, there are allies who agree and sympathize with you. If you can, try starting a conversation with them about something queer, and remember that the world is a little brighter than we tend to think.
Photo: Anjie Brady