Graphics by Kitkat Tan
Last year, I was fortunate enough to have taken a gender studies class. Only then was I able to realize the gravitas that comes with being queer. I was able to learn about the hardships and pains and the sacrifices that the LGBT+ community have to go through for liberation to truly celebrate their identity. I learned about Marsha P. Johnson in Stonewall, the Harlem Renaissance, the progressive Christian groups that supported the community during turbulent times, like Metropolitan Community Church, etc. and many other momentous events and people; all of which helped me contextualize where I am and where the queer community belongs.
What struck the most, though, was our discussion on the early years of Pride marches and how important they were to the community. My professor told me about his experience attending his very first pride march in Manhattan and how it allowed him to embrace his queerness even more. My classmates shared stories about their pride march experiences, as well, but none of them meant anything to me.
I have come to terms with my sexuality at age 16; but even then, I was never proud of it. I was never open to talking about it. As some would say, I am in the closet; deep, deep in the closet.
I have resolved internally that I am gay; but instead of being proud about it, I would tense up when the topic of sexuality would arise at certain occasions. When people would ask me about my sexuality, I would readily be on the defense. In my head, I have a semblance of settlement about my sexuality; but deep down, there is still an ongoing conflict about it.
I had a sense of what being “queer” is, but I did not know the deeper implications of such a term. Despite having found a small community of queer people on Tumblr, I still do not know what it means to be part of the LGBT+ community. Having a personal resolution when it comes to one’s sexuality might not be enough to be completely proud of it. In reality, those two things are not synonymous.
Not until I attended my first Pride March last 2017 did I finally make sense of the mess that I faced. Everyone experiences and expresses sexualities differently. While some choose to be visible, others are not. While some are bright and vibrant, some are dull and plain, both of which are perfectly fine and valid.
I have seen people openly express who they are and what they feel. I have seen people just plainly embracing who they are without fear of judgment or hate. I saw that there is a space for every single person in the community, regardless of gender, sexuality, or way of expression. I experienced belonging to this so-called “LGBT+ community” for the very first time, and what it means. To be part of such a community means to be proud of who you are, regardless if you are still in the closet or out to the world.
At the end of it all, pride allowed me to evaluate who I am as a queer man in relation to the community I belonged to. The pride march showed me a different sense of acceptance of my identity, something that I cannot get from a personal resolve nor through classroom discussions. Pride became synonymous with my identity. The pride march showed me that it is perfectly fine to be deep in the closet, while it is also fine to be out to the world as both expressions are perfectly valid.
We’ve come a long way from the very first pride march in 1994, and society has become at least more tolerant of the LGBT+ community. People are allowed to gather publicly now to celebrate who they are. Even still, there are people out there who continue to deny everyone’s rights to express their love and celebrate who they are. Despite the oppositions, the pride march still is a place where love and acceptance abound, even for the people who are not as accepting. These annual pride marches will always hold a special place in my heart. While I stay deep in this proverbial closet, pride marches will continue to be my own source of pride until I can muster up the courage to finally come out of it.