Celebrated each June and originally started in cities to “improve the visibility, acceptance, and legal protections for LGBTQ+ people living in those communities,” Pride has grown into a celebration of pride for the LGBTQ+ community across the world.
My wife and I started going to Pride thirteen years ago. We lived outside of Washington, D.C. at the time. D.C. Pride is a massive event, and I had only been out of the closet for six years at that point. I remember that, even though it was overwhelming, it felt good to think that people just assumed I was gay because I was there. It was a great feeling to be in the majority and to be unreservedly myself in public for a day. We always enjoyed going into D.C. anyway because we generally felt more comfortable being seen together there, but Pride afforded you the opportunity to be as out as you wanted to be!
Over the years, my Pride attendance fluctuated as did my degree of comfort in my own queerness. When we moved to Richmond, we noticed a shift in the diversity of the folx around us in our daily lives, leaving us feeling vulnerable. So, when we started going to Richmond Pride, which was much smaller and less overwhelming than D.C., it actually felt more like ours — we had pride in the place we lived along with our queer pride. I think this was in part because this was our community and because we knew many of the attendees. For example, when we go now, we like to meet up with mom friends who have queer kids and other ally moms who wear t-shirts that say, “Free Mom Hugs.” They go around giving said hugs all day. We watch their kids wear as much rainbow gear as they possibly can while they run around and have fun with their friends. My wife Betsy and I are childfree by choice, but it’s heartwarming to see the kids getting hugs and getting to experience pride. And as kids often do, it helps remind us of the different perspectives Pride offers different people. For many, it really is a chance to be out of the closet when they can’t normally be.
Richmond Pride also feels more like our Pride because in years past we’ve sat the booth for our church, which honestly was a mixed-emotion experience. On the one hand, it was exciting to be able to share my Unitarian Universalist faith, which sees the inherent worth and dignity in everyone and not only welcomes in queer folx but celebrates everyone’s diverse identities. On the other hand, church has historically been ground zero for LGBTQIA+ discrimination and the narrative that queer folx are inherently flawed. Most people at Pride stroll right on by the church booths, so to think that I could have in any way caused pain to others by being there representing a church was unsettling.
While we don’t always attend every year, we go when we’re called to for one reason or another. Each time we do, Pride is an invitation for me to check in with myself and see how my own level of self-pride is doing. For too long I just went through the motions of Pride, but in recent years I have started to see the deeper, more profound significance of the day. I continually work on cultivating a sense of pride, not only during the annual celebration but every day of the year. It is part of a lifelong journey of self-acceptance.