Disclaimer: I know that Pride is not about me. This is not a way to appropriate something in a kind of white, straight, cisgender arrogance. It is, instead, written with humility and appreciation.
Yesterday, June 26, I was standing in the bathroom, swiping mascara on my lashes, when my boyfriend walked in, said “Happy Pride, baby!” kissed me, and left. I wished him a happy pride as well, and tied the rainbow ribbon in my hair. It’s too big, but I was wearing my marriage equality shirt from the Human Rights Campaign anyways, because it was Pride, and because it was the anniversary of the SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality.
I love Pride. I understand that as a straight, cisgender woman, it is not about me, but I love Pride. I love that, in its pure form, it stands for courage and love, and celebrating true selves and diverse beauty. Whenever I have gone to a Pride celebration, the energy that radiates is breathtaking.
I love what Pride means for the people I love. I seem to have more non-straight friends than average, and I love that despite the trials they face, there is a time specifically set aside to celebrate.
I have no respect for the degradation that happens when narrow-minded and assholish straight people use Pride and gay bars to get sloppy and gawk at others. This isn’t about that sort of straight-person-at-Pride kind of experience.
Selfishly, I love Pride partly because even as a straight chick, it is one of the most welcoming and free spaces I encounter all year. When I’m there, a surrounded by color and positivity, I am at peace. I’ve been touched by the kindness I’ve experienced there, whether it is a stranger complimenting my hair ribbons or a hug after a good joke, or seeing someone take care of someone else who needs it.
For most of my life, I haven’t felt like I fit in, for one reason or another. I don’t think that is an uncommon feeling, but I never feel that way at Pride. When I was a pastor, the rest of the pastors in my denomination thought I was a lesbian, and because of that, many treated me differently. As a woman who has a diverse range of interests and skills, sometimes, I get crap about not being feminine enough or too feminine. Not that those are the same kind of experiences that LGBTQ people have, but it certainly has given me more than enough empathy to make a difference.
I love going to Pride to celebrate my friends. To be grateful to the community that has welcomed, accepted, and loved me, even though I am an outsider. I love being able to be an ally for great and beautiful people.
Pride is not about me. I’ve seen some articles floating around the internet lately that are pretty blunt about saying that Pride is not for straight people. I don’t disagree. But I do think that Pride can be, and is, a time for everyone to celebrate the far reaches of love and the advances made in equality and justice, and recognize that the work is not yet done. In reading that, it kind of sounds like a bad version of “all lives matter,” but that’s not what I mean. I mean that as a woman lucky enough to be included by a community, I am happy to celebrate as an ally and a friend.
I couldn’t make it to the Pride parade this year because we were leaving for vacation, but my heart was there. Every time I looked down at my shirt or saw the hair ribbon in my reflection, I was reminded of what should be celebrated. I can’t wait until next year, when I hope to be there again.
It was bound to happen. I was bound to encounter some kind of ghost someday soon.
Earlier today, as I drove to the gym, I caught myself thinking of how it’s becoming more normal to feel like I’m part of the larger world again, away from the microscopic universe that is The Salvation Army. It feels like so much less pressure. More air. That feeling you get in the spring when you can finally have the windows open and you realize just how closed in you have been for months.
I had my head in the safe at work a few hours later, when I heard him. I knew his voice before I looked up; he was in IT when I was in Training and he has a distinctive voice. I stood and answered his questions about his car wash receipt, and at first, I didn’t say anything. Should I? It has been years since we knew each other. A few lifetimes ago for me. Then his eyebrows furrowed and he said my legal name.
I was busted. I am prideful enough to hope that I never see people I know when I’m at work. So far, I’d been successful, but it turns out his parents live just up the street from my work, and he was stopping in on his way home from a visit.
He didn’t know I’d resigned, and after a few bits of conversation, I remembered that he also hasn’t seen me since I’ve lost weight. So while I was staring at someone who hasn’t seemed to change, I was something both familiar and foreign to him.
It’s the first time I’ve talked with someone who didn’t already know. Someone who wasn’t a part of my world for the years that changed everything, that changed me. I wasn’t sure what all to say, standing there on the other side of the counter, trying to sum up everything and not sound like I am crazy. I’m not so sure I was successful.
We talked for maybe five minutes and he left.
I don’t know why it matters to me what he, or anyone else, thinks. I know why I left, my tribe knows why I left, and I am OK with it. But I also remember how people in The Salvation Army can speak of those who leave. A prevailing assumption is that the person/people who leave are somehow broken. Morally, ethically, spiritually, financially, emotionally… No matter what the assumption is they are somehow broken.
Maybe I cared because I don’t want people to think I’m broken. I was, for a time, when I was still in, begging for help while I was drowning in the appointment from hell. I’m not now. I’m scarred, and vastly different from the woman he knew five years ago, but I’m not broken. I’m a far better person than I was then.
I know that. My tribe knows that. And I guess that’s all that matters.