As most know, June is Pride Month. But what exactly does that mean? The celebratory month honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, New York. Stonewall was a monumental tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States and has since paved the way for a greater recognition concerning the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had and will continue to have on our world. On a bigger scope, this is what Pride month means. The significance and meaning it holds, however, can just about look different for everyone.
I have been living as an out, queer woman for about 4 years now. Each year Pride rolls around, I find a deeper connection and appreciation to the time than the year before.
Before I experienced my first Pride, I remember feeling hopeless. I had a girl that I loved but was too frightened and ashamed to have others find out about our relationship. Realizing that a big part of my happiness in life could be someone else’s disdain took a massive toll on my mental and emotional health. Realizing that a part of you, a part that inherently makes up your foundation as a human being, can be a cause of concern or blight for others made me feel like I had a stain on my soul that I couldn’t clean. I never thought I would be able to live freely and openly in my sexuality.
Fast forward a couple of months and I’m walking down the streets of Washington, D.C. for my first Pride festival. I saw so many people living as authentically themselves, sharing their joy and confidence with everyone around them. It was the first time I didn’t feel scared to reach down and hold my girlfriend’s hand in public. The first time I felt like my life wasn’t meant to be a doomed existence but one full of happiness, possibility and warmth. My soul didn’t look too much like a stain anymore but like a unique paint splatter.
Pride for me means celebrating the joy and freedom to love the person that makes your heart burst wide open. It means acknowledging that love is not a pattern to be replicated, but an original piece of art that’s created when you open yourself to another. It means recognizing that “your other half” isn’t bound to what society expects it to be. At the end of the day, it’s understanding that everyone deserves to connect, to feel and to love.
We may all have different dreams, goals and fears, but the right to love and to be loved is for all. Amid all the progress we have seen regarding LGBTQ rights, I never forget the people that were not granted this basic human necessity. The people that had to hide in fear of what the outside world would think or do if they found out about their identity. The ones that clutched their chests to suppress their beating hearts and silenced their racing thoughts.
I also think of the trailblazers that set the way for my freedom to love. Some names I know, and many I don’t, but it is because of them I can grab my girlfriend’s hand in the middle of a scary movie. It’s because of them that we can be wrapped around each other at a concert as we listen to our favorite band. Because of them, I can openly run into the arms of the woman I love in times of joy, pain, grief and excitement.
This month may mean nothing to some, but it means the absolute world to others, me included. So, this month and for the many more to come I choose to be proud. To be happy. To be all the things that everyone else around me gets to and ought to be. I choose to listen to my heart, no matter where it pulls me. No matter who it pulls me to.
Love is love.