This weekend is a favorite in our house, it is a weekend to celebrate love, self identity and community. The LBGTQ community became part of my life in college when one of my fondest, most amazing friends came out. In my support and love of him, the community and its objectives became a part of me. This weekend I would be one of 1 million in the streets of Chicago celebrating PRIDE; instead in the era of COVID I sit in my apartment and reflect on the profound impact this community has had on me and my ability to thrive with chronic illness.
My gay friends began teaching me in my late teens what it meant to be proud to be yourself no matter what others thought of you. It was the time when coming out was not socially accepted and the ramifications were layered and deep. Seeing your struggles, how you learned to accept yourself and then to go beyond that and advocate for the community has become my template for living.
I am not going to write all of the stories filled to the brim with deep emotions, and lessons in humanity. After all this is the time to celebrate. What I will say is that there have been countless times over the years when a drag queen has said, “Girl you do you.” Or a random guy said, “You look just fabulous.” Or when someone I barely know noticed I was struggling and offered a kind ear. All the while I was doubting myself, my looks, my worth, my ability. Time and time again you lifted me up by just being you, by your kind hearts and words.
This weekend automatically makes me think of music. What will be the most popular songs on floats, what is the message and theme for this year? These athems tell stories, evoke emotion, recall memories and spur action. As I write this I am listening to Andy Cohen’s Pride Radio; every morning I listen to iHeart Pride radio. Isn’t that strange as a straight woman in my 40s? Maybe. But the reason is simple, this music has become a part of me, the anthems feed my resilience, energize and give meaning to my day.
I dedicated Dancing Queen to my husband at our wedding reception. There have been days in the hospital when I played Kelly Carkson and belted out “What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger.” After I got a painful feeding tube, I would walk on the treadmill at a snail’s pace singing Born this Way by Lady Gaga as I started to accept there was no fix for my illness. While these songs and many others are the soundtrack of my life, they also remind me of the good times had at PRIDE fest, Market Days and PRIDE Sunday with people I love and adore.
Pride celebration, the last Sunday in June, has become a day when our friends come together, often from all over the country. We start with breakfast on the street, and celebrate with the 3+ hour parade. Which is followed by reflection and connecting at a 2+ hour dinner afterwards. It is our version of the holidays, we block out the entire day and spend it together relishing the festivities. We exhibit love for people for who they are, no matter who they are, who they love or how they identify. The people we spend PRIDE with are some of the best friends, teachers and advocates anyone could hope to find.
We see some of you often throughout the year, we see others of you that one day a year. That sounds like FAMILY to me.
To my LBGTQAI+ family thank you for showing me that it is perfectly acceptable to be me. To be something outside of the majority norm, to prevail and to love myself. To put myself out there truthfully for others like me. You didn’t teach me this on one day a year, you exemplified this in our friendships the other 364 days of the year.
This is our weekend to celebrate you and all you are. I hope you all know what an example you have been for me, and for that I am profoundly grateful. I would not have prevailed to this point like I have without your inspiration.
Love for ALL.
Now it is time to dance like no one is watching…. Or like it is your own personal, fabulous, fantastical PRIDE parade.
Together we go Onward and Upward!