Sunday, June 26, 2016

NYC Pride Flashback circa 2007

Happy Pride Weekend!

I know June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month for most of the country, but being a Northeasterner at heart, the last weekend in June has always been reserved for "The Pride Event": New York City Pride Parade.

Being out since 2004, I had always imagined myself walking in the NYC Pride Parade. My fantasy revolved around images I had accumulated from movies, books, and music videos. You know the ones-stereotypical depictions of butch lesbians on motorcycles and scantily clad gay men waving rainbow flags-I wanted to be in the thick of it!

Unfortunately, I could not manage to scoop up any willing participants on this excursion, so come Sunday morning I headed to the New Haven train station by my lonesome. Destination: Grand Central. I am definitely someone who can "pass" and my attire reflected that as well. En route to NYC, I looked like a typical college student heading to The City for the day. I was equipped with a bagel and coffee, very little money (in fact JUST enough for my round trip train ticket and a $5 meal in New York), and a spunky attitude!

Being cognizant of the mayhem that would soon ensue, I arrived VERY early. So early, in fact, the volunteers were still setting up the event. That is when I first noticed the traffic barricades blocking off the sidewalk...and when it dawned on me that most people don't assume they can just show up to one of the largest pride events in the world and expect to just simply MARCH with the parade. But, then again, I'm not most people. 

I casually usurped the barricades and starting walking up 7th Ave, in the street. It took approximately 27 seconds before a very militant lesbian approached me with a clipboard and asked if I needed help. In my youthful arrogance I simply responded I was there to march in the parade. She scoffed and asked if I was registered with a group. I slowly took a sip of coffee and explained I was not registered with a group. She all but laughed at me and said I could not march if I was not registered, before marching away herself. I smiled and affirmed: I am marching in this parade.
I peered across 7th Ave and saw a group of 20-somethings in a vibrant and excited huddle. Unlike most of the other groups that were forming, these individuals were not dressed alike and, therefore, made it easier for me to sneak in and pretend I was with them. In a matter of minutes, a woman shouted, "Who wants to carry a sign?!" 
I thought, Here's my chance! If I'm carrying a sign, I can't be told I can't march!
"I do!" I exclaimed and hurried over. I cannot for the life of me remember what my sign said and unfortunately it did not survive the many moves I've had since 2007. But, that sign was my ticket to my very gay fantasy, so I held on for dear life. 

At precisely noon, we kicked off from 36th and 7th towards The Village and the excitement pulsed immediately. I had no idea who I was marching with, but I was overwhelmed by the proud energy pounding from the onlookers and marchers alike. 

We hadn't walked very far, when we stopped and I heard a man speak from one row ahead of me. In a dizzying moment of realization, the pieces start to connect and I realized who, exactly, I was marching with. I was marching with the New York City Council and quite literally one person separated me and Mayor Bloomberg!

These are pictures from NYC Pride 2007. I was one of the many people holding signs announcing important political and legal dates in gay history. 
My head was spinning. It was surreal to know I was actually participating in this event and I had done it with nearly no preparation. As the march continued, my casual attire became more "Gay-a-fied" as I collected rainbow Mardi Gras beads, buttons, stickers, and flags. By the time we ended at Christopher Street, I was covered in rainbow goodness from head to toe-never mind my sign. Having spent hours marching in the heat, I was in need of a subway pronto. I stopped and asked a cop where I could find the nearest subway station and was informed that all participants of the parade got to ride for free!

I lived off that Pride high for weeks after, telling anyone who would listen about my adventure! The train ride back to CT was entertaining to say the least as I garnered looks from everyone from elderly couples to children to other queer 20-somethings who smiled with solidarity.

So while I was not able to participate in today's Pride events, my flashback holds special significance for not only the queer in me, but the activist in me.


Friday, January 1, 2016

An Open Letter to 2015

As the new year begins, I find myself caught up in the typical end-of-the-year reflections, mostly thanking the fuck out of the Universe that 2015 is over. Please trust I am everyday grateful that I am alive and able to live each day to it's fullest, that I have an abundance of family and friends who know me better than I know myself, and that I am (finally) employed at a job I do not vehemently hate every second of. That being said, this past year certainly gave 2014 a run for its money.
It's natural, then, to look back and bid adieu to all the fucked up shit that happened in 2015. Taking this reflection a step further, I have decided to address the main source of my discontent in 2015: my bad attitude. Because, basically, it all comes down to that. After 2014 proved to be misstep after misstep, I expected the Universe to grant me a break, without even considering my role in the equation. I assumed 32 essentially good (at worst decent) years + 1 tough year = I deserve all the things. But that, my darlings, is not how Life works. Life just is-it gives and it takes in a cycle that most of us pay little attention to. And when Life takes, the outcome depends almost entirely on our reaction to it. Pissing and moaning, blaming others, exclaiming "I'm cursed!" (something I am ashamed to admit I have said more than once in 2015), and throwing hissy fits is not going to force Life to give back, it's just going to make the situation that much harder to accept. 

I have even gone so far as to declare: "In the past two years, I can't seem to have more than 2 or 3 days of peace without the rug being pulled out from under me." Now, as extreme as that may seem, it's actually fairly accurate situation-wise, BUT it didn't have to accurately describe my attitude. Instead, I let each situation puncture me, seep into my veins, and (worse of all) define me. I'm going to say that again: I let those bad days, awful situations, and heartbreaking moments DEFINE me. For two fucking years. Me! The person who always thought of herself as spiritual, positive, affirming, compassionate, understanding, open, "silver lining" adjacent.

I had become cynical, sardonic, skeptical, smug, bitter, jaded. All these alarming adjectives I never could have imagined associated with myself. And not because I've never felt these feelings in my life, of course I have, but never for so long, unrelenting to the point of attempting to forge itself into my core, my very soul. And I was afraid there was no way back. As scary and dark as these feelings were, I experienced a sense of superiority. Equivalent to the moment I asked my mother (at age 9) if there was really a Santa Claus and she confirmed there wasn't. The magic was gone, but I felt eerily superior, enlightened, "better." That is precisely the feeling I have held onto for two years, each day growing stronger: The magic was gone, but I felt eerily superior. Like I knew the "real" meaning of Life and everyone who was positive and happy was being duped. Trust, I recognize how absolutely miserable that sounds.

The magic I am referring to is the wonder of Life. The fascination of connecting with people, sharing common goals, allowing your heart to love, being open to hurt, putting yourself "out there." Everything I had come to love about Life, I was now belittling and demeaning. And it has affected my psyche, my heart, my well-being, and, most tragically, my soul.

Sure, I could blame dysfunctional relationships (I've had my fair share!), a crazy family (check!), unsupportive partners (yep!), career burn-out (yes, ma'am!), or a strong case of wanderlust (Lord, yes!) OR I could look at the preceding reasons and conclude my poor attitude likely played a large part in each of those areas, as well. Had I been more confident, comfortable in my skin, and trusting I wouldn't have sought out partners, careers, and locations that would eventually disappoint, most through no fault of their own. (Especially since I am not the only human on this planet who has ever experienced the previous.)

So, 2015, you have given me many opportunities to face who I really am, even when it hurt. You have given me reasons to cry and scream and shut down from the people closest to me. You have given me grief and struggle, but also resilience and hope. In truth, last year was never about you and Life conspiring against me, it has always been about you giving me reasons to trust Life loves me and gives me exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. I can't promise my attitude will magically alter today, I can't even promise to go back to the wide-eyed optimist I was in my 20's, but I can promise not to give up, not to succumb to the bitterness, not to expect the worst from people. I can promise to try harder, laugh more, take Life (and everything!) less seriously while I am blessed enough to be here on this planet. In closing, 2015, you gave much more than you took, because you gave me a purpose, you pushed me to my breaking point and trusted I would find my way back. And I am beginning to. Thank you.