I don't know why I am so nervous to write this blog post...
For over a week I have had this blogpost sloshing around inside my brain, as I slowly begin to piece together the words. And it is frustrating, that I can't actually articulate how I have felt since attending NYC Pride. I feel different. I feel enlightened. I feel like I "get it". But "what?", you may ask. That is a question I have been asking myself ever since.
To give you some context. If you had asked my 17 year old self to walk in a Pride March, anywhere in the world. I would have said no. And I would have been quite stubborn when it came to that decision. I didn't need "Pride", I wasn't interested in "Pride" and I didn't feel like I belonged in "Pride". Why?
I guess on reflection, being gay, felt normal? I was dealing with establishing what I wanted to do with my life, I didn't like the school I was attending and my brain was kind of focused on these other things instead. I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where my sexuality was fully supported and accepted in my surrounding circle. I had visited a few local gay bars, and felt I didn't belong there. I felt what being gay, to me, was something different, than all the people I was seeing and meeting. I spent my weekends and summers at my local theatre school where I learnt to embrace every part of myself, and where I learnt what I wanted to be "when I grew up". I now know that this is an incredibly fortunate position to be in. Acceptance, is rare.
As I moved around schools, and relocated from a small town, to a city, to a huge city in a different country. I have gained more and more knowledge of what "Pride" actually means to people, and what it represents. This year, one of my New Years Resolutions was to really educate myself on LGBT history. Gino and I were fortunate enough to catch "Gently Down the Stream", a play that had recently opened at the Public Theatre. A play about an intergenerational relationship between two men, touching on the differences between being gay in the 50's and 60's as opposed to being gay in the early 2000's and 2010's. It lit a spark in Gino and I.
After graduation I was asked to take part in an intergenerational LGBT advice video for APlus. Which you can watch here:
And during the day of shooting I met members of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders), I was struck by the wonderful conversation and the beauty in their openness to discuss their journeys of navigating the world as a member of the LGBT community. By the end of the shooting day, I had submitted to become a volunteer at SAGE.
Around May, a dear, and talented friend Mr Sam LaFrage, asked if I would like to walk in the NYC Pride March with his LGBT Youth Theatre "RagTag Theatre". YES. So it was set. I was walking in one of the biggest pride celebrations, with a wonderful organisation. Take that 17 year old me! But why the change of heart? If there is anything I have learnt, it is that compassion, empathy and understanding are at the heart of communicating with other people, appreciating other people. Each person you meet being an entirely different individual, in the most fantastic way. Well "Pride NYC" is a celebration, of those individuals.
As we all gathered on 40th street between Park & Madison Avenue, we could feel the buzz and excitement of each group waiting to walk. People smiling, cheering, dancing with one another. You couldn't go 2 minutes without hearing "YAAAS QUEEN YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL". I mean how wonderful would the world be to hear that kind of encouragement every single day.
I worry as I grow older that my new found understanding of things that contradict broad statements I made as a naive teenager look hypocritical. That to gain knowledge or to have a contrasting outlook on things as we develop and grow looks bad. But I think it is a positive. I try not to disregard how I felt when I didn't KNOW. I look at it as a positive. Growth, is positive.
Pride has left me feeling positive. I feel I understand. I want to make a difference, I want to make changes, I want to be a part of the conversation. I hope, as NevNYC grows, that LGBT issues become a part of the identity of this blog. And I hope on a human level that we all try to understand and learn more about individuals and communities that either directly effect us, and those that don't.
I hope that whoever you are, and wherever you are. You are proud of who you are. And embrace who you are, fully, and know that there are people out there that also embrace you fully. You are loved.
Check out my vlog from NYC Pride 2017, below! If you enjoy the video be sure to like, comment and subscribe!
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