Are you going to your first Pride celebration? Wow! You are in for quite an experience. Our community, the LGBTQ community, is as diverse as the letters used to describe it.

We are every color of the rainbow, every religion, political affiliation. We are small, large, tall, and short. We dress in business clothes, casual attire, and costumes. We belong to clubs, teams, social groups, and many of us are loners.

At Pride celebrations, well, we look like every and any combination. If you are going to a celebration for the first time, keep an open mind, welcoming thoughts, and a big smile. I don’t have the exact words to prepare you. Just be open to the new experience. Know that you are not the only newby there. You will not be. And if you think that by showing up people will assume you are a member of the community, you are wrong. Many of our allies in the straight community will be there celebrating with us.

Take time to look around you. Take in all that you can. There will be vendors from churches, civic groups, PFLAG, businesses, sports clubs, and politicians (it is an election year). Too many to list. There will be music and entertainment, food and beverages, items to purchase.

Wow, it looks like any other street fair or neighborhood gathering. What a surprise? It looks familiar and yet so strange. Don’t judge the difference. Embrace it. Whether you are one of the many alphabet letters or straight, you will find others that are just like you.

I often teach that you should live by the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Well, that applies to Pride. Keep your judging eyes in check. Do not discriminate against others. Do not use this opportunity to hold yourself up and put others down, or pick apart what you see. Embrace the difference of our vast community. We all have things to offer. What it comes down to is that, if you really look at us you will see that we are your brothers and sisters, your teachers, politicians, parishioners, office workers, police, fire and rescue workers, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, and even your clergy (just like me).

If you are in the closet, you are welcome. If you haven’t even decided who you are, you are welcome.

The point I want to make is that – at a Pride event you can expect to see any and every thing, any and every one, people from all walks of life, none of it matters.

On another subject, though. June will also bring primary elections to Maryland. We have many politicians running for a few races. The ballots will be filled with names running for each opening. While you are at Pride, take advantage of any campaigner to learn about them, to help you make a good decision. Does the primary count for anything? You bet it does. We need to whittle down the big lists to the candidates we want to elect in November. We need to remove those names from the lists that don’t care for our community, for our rights.

I am sure you will find some folks there that can help you register to vote, if you are new to the process. Take advantage of the opportunity (don’t be embarrassed if you are not yet registered – sign up). Most importantly, get out and vote come June 26th.

So, you can meet people, visit vendors, eat and drink (responsibly), educate yourself, be entertained, and just have fun. Pride has much to offer in all the communities it will be celebrated in. Come out and enjoy!

Happy Pride month!

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