I arrived in San Francisco the Thursday night before the SCOTUS made their historic ruling that legalized gay marriage across the United States. Not a bad thing to wake up to (even at six in the morning)!!! Serendipitously, it was also San Francisco’s annual gay pride weekend and the Bay Area radiated joy, exuberance and optimism because of the very recent events. It gave the festivities a deeper, more profound purpose and it was such an honor to witness and partake in.
Before my trip, the only gay pride celebrations I had ever been to was Pensacola Pride on Memorial Day weekend and Southern Decadence in New Orleans. While I enjoyed my fun at both of those events and left with stories not quite befitting of this blog, the focus of those events were very different from what I saw in San Francisco. The gay pride celebrations down here in the South seem to circulate around parties and the more visceral, hedonistic aspects of our human nature. There tends to be more of an emphasis on hooking up and the thrill of the hunt.
Out west, the energy was different though. It was more about celebrating our similarities and appreciating our differences. It was a collective embrace of love and compassion for everyone. Every type of person was honored for what made them unique, individual and, ultimately, beautiful. There were definitely parties and the clubs had lines that were a city block long, which I definitely explored but the reverence for humanity overshadowed the appetite and exploitation thereof. The entire experience made me rethink the idea of gay pride.
Being so immersed in a place so important to LGBT history made me realize how far we have come as a people, as well as the people who fought the great fight. I had the privilege of visiting Harvey Milk’s camera shop, which has now been converted into a store for the Human Rights Campaign. It was so surreal to be standing in the same space that was used to change the course of history for so many, including myself. But there was a quote on the wall that stopped me dead in my tracks and put the whole “gay pride” thing into perspective.
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” -Harvey Milk
That is what gay pride is truly about. It is more than just a celebration with endless rainbows and circuit parties. It is an open invitation to be the most concentrated version of yourself. It is a calling to the purest form of your person to come out and be embraced sans judgement and ridicule. You can leave the masquerade mask of everyday life at home and let your soul breathe. It is a glorious encouragement to be seen and loved as the fingerprint of God (or whatever deity you prefer). And the best part is everyone is welcomed!!! Gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, straight (join the party, allies); no one is left out.
It was a beautiful experience that I will never forget. The peaceful excitement has changed me and it was a reminder that nothing is worth more than your truth. To water it down or numb it in any fashion is to be one’s own Judas. That is the ultimate betrayal. And it doesn’t need to make sense to anyone other than you. Someone is always going to have something to say about how you do so you might as well give them one hell of a story.
The atmosphere that weekend also reiterated how wonderful vulnerability can feel. It can definitely be scary putting every part of your being on display but that’s the fantastic challenge of it. You are so free to be anything and everything you could ever dream of being, it makes you dig deeper to figure out exactly who you are and more importantly, who you want to be. And that’s such an amazing freedom to explore.
Sometimes pride events can seem unnecessary and rather debauched and its purpose can get lost in the fanfare. But the truth is there was a point when the expression of our innate human nature was considered criminal intent. There are people who have fought relentlessly and risked everything, including their own lives, for the progress that has been made in liberating the LGBT community. Major moves to protect the community still in the works but they are proving to be as inevitable as gay marriage. Beyond that, it is imperative to continue to invite others to accept and express the truth of their authentic selves. We need to carry the bravery that the previous generations of activists and freedom fighters had and use it to empower and support the youth in their unique journey to their own truth. That is the purpose in celebrating LGBT pride.
Photo Source: Kenneth Givens