Going to Pride is kind of like the first day of high school. You may recognize a few faces, but there are a lot of new people you haven’t met yet. It’s an experience that can be simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying, especially if you don’t know many people in the community. And, just like the first day of high school, you may find yourself wondering if and where you fit in.
Navigating gay male culture can be tricky. We live in a digital age and many of us have an online dating profile or use social networking apps to meet new people. Some of these profiles list “preferences” that, frankly, exclude a number of people based on age, size, race, and whatever else the profile’s creator finds attractive. Sometimes profiles are so specific that you have to wonder if the user’s ideal man even exists. In these cases, it usually becomes clear that you’ve been disqualified before you can even say hello. The message is clear: you’re not wanted.
The digital culture we live in, fueled by social media, has a way of subtly encouraging us to compare ourselves to others. We begin to measure our worth in “likes” and followers; we fret over the popularity of our posts. We regress back to high school, to a time when being cool and being popular meant everything in the world. We want to fit in and we want to be liked. When we see others doing better than we are, it can make us question ourselves and our place in the community.
I think this never fully goes away for us in the LGBTQ community because many of us spent our formative years feeling like outsiders trying to fit in. This, coupled with the notorious superficiality of gay male culture, can make us feel that we’re not “enough” to be accepted, which is the polar opposite of what Pride season is supposed to be about. As a result, some of us opt out of Pride. After all, they can’t reject you if you don’t go.
The truth is, all of these concerns are real and justified. The more important truth is, you matter.
Martha Graham said that in all of time and in all the universe, there will only ever be one you. That means that everything you bring to the world is special, something that only you can give. If you don’t share it, your gift will be lost and the world will never have it. Your job is to be yourself and to love yourself so that the world is better because you are part of it.
That’s what I think coming out is: being the person you are instead of the person you’re supposed to be. We need different, unique, special people because the world would be a terribly boring place if everyone was alike. It’s easy to be like everyone else, but much harder to be your true, authentic self. That may mean that not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay because you won’t (and shouldn’t) like everyone, either. Instead, the people who do like you will like you for you, not someone you’re pretending to be.
If you find yourself doubting yourself this Pride season, remember Martha’s advice. You are inherently special because there is and will only ever be one you. Do what makes you happy and be yourself, not the person you think you’re supposed to be. Be proud of yourself. We only get to live one life; try to make it a happy one.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.