I remember how excited I was to experience my first Pride. I had come out just a short year before and was excited to join in the festivities with fellow homos who were free to express who they were, and weren’t letting anyone come in their way. I had a boyfriend at the time and we were looking forward to holding hands while walking in the parade, enjoying the concerts planned in the park and of course, the big dance party to wrap up the weekend. I had all of these preconceived notions of what this was going to be like. A part of my predictions were true, but my mind and more importantly, my heart were not prepared for some of the ‘behind the scenes’ that no one had warned me off.

Pride festivals and parades began as a commemorative ceremony celebrating the riots at Stonewall Inn in New York city in 1969. This was the first time recorded in history where an LGBT community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals. This event has been the defining moment that sparked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States. The first “pride parade” happened in November, 1969 under the direction of Craig Rodwell. In the 80’s, a cultural shift began and the small pride ceremony to remember Stonewall became less radical and more organized by gay communities world-wide and have become what we know today as “Pride Week/end” in your respective cities. Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama have even declared June Gay and Lesbian Pride Month for 2000 and 2009. Pride festivals are now seen as a chance for the LGBT community to celebrate their liberation and freedom within society and their success in social acceptance within nations that once oppressed them.

This is of course what I thought my first Pride would feel like. A comfortable place to be who I was with no judgement or fear. Instead I experienced something different. The first thing I noticed was some of the judgement and rude comments coming from within our own group. Pride is about celebrating all aspects of our culture, but I was amazed at the amount of ridicule towards the transvestites, the drag queens, the overly gay, and the like. I was apalled. I thought this would be time to not feel oppressed by those around us. Suddenly I was amongst hate within a place of assumed safety. For one day, it seemed like we still couldn’t escape the slander we try so hard to ignore from others who don’t understand or are misinformed. On to the dance party. I had been to the gay bar before but thought that this party would be so exciting. Tons of DJ’s, live performances, everybody feeling free to be; a recipe for a great way to end Pride. It started off well but soon turned into a nightmare for my boyfriend and I. Even outside of Pride, we had a hard enough time warding off singles who wanted to take home one or both of us, couples who wanted to spice it up with us or the like. Pride just heightened the hunt and suddenly, I was the prey like open season on hooking up. It didn’t matter that I had a boyfriend. “Come on! It’s Pride. Have some fun.” Fun? I wad horrified. I was paranoid enough of being cheated on or making my own mistakes and now, nothing but peer pressure to hook up was around us. If I was talking to someone, he was jealous or vice versa. That later turned into a fight and we ended our night early, mad at each other for what now seems like it was nothing at all. Was going through all of this heartache and stress worth experiencing my first Pride? I wasn’t sure.

I have been to 3 Pride festivals since then and each one has had good moments but somehow, always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. One year, a couple that I had met that were together for 8 months prior to Pride, decided to break up for the sake of hooking up with other people because hey, it’s Pride. That’s what happens right? I couldn’t believe it. Later on, I had a boyfriend who loved Pride. So with him, I gave it another chance. Things went well. Then he went to a Pride in Toronto on his own. I was uneasy but trusted him to make smart decisions. Dumb move. He was drunk all the time, barely contacted me, unreachable and calls went straight to voicemail. I found out later he had done drugs a few times over the course of the weekend. And, of course, later when the truth came out, he hadn’t been faithful. I was so hurt. I thought Pride was about celebrating who you are, not living up to every stereotype we try so hard to break. Had all the gays in the country lost the meaning if what Pride was? Did we forget where it started and how far we’ve come? Is Pride now a chance to hook up, have a lot of sex, do some drugs and partake in any other actions that you would normally deem irresponsible?

I don’t hate Pride by any means. I just think that some people have forgotten that for some folks, this is the only safe place for them to be who they are and celebrate it.

Having entered a new relationship, I think that Pride is something amazing to share together; in this country especially. But, we know to be careful. There are going to be obstacles to overcome. This Pride, have fun, 100%. Just take a minute to remember where Pride came from and how lucky we are to celebrate as loud and proud as we do. It wasn’t always this easy.

Happy Pride!

Submitted by: Tyrell W..

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