A Shallow But Sincere Pride Message

End of the Pride Month progress report

For the past few years, I’ve tried to make some kind of acknowledgement at the beginning of Pride month in June. But it’s usually a kind of generic “love is love” type of thing, an earnest-but-not-especially-deep acknowledgement of how much better my life has been since I came out, a resolution to keep speaking out in favor of equality and respect, the kind of thing that makes for a perfectly suitable sentiment on a rainbow T-shirt.

This month, though, has hit different. I don’t know if it’s because it coincides with my birthday, so I’m growing deeper into DGAF territory. Or if COVID has kept me isolated in one way or another, with a lot of time to myself to think. But June 2024 has really sunk in as part of an ongoing process I’m calling The Great Unclenchening.

Which means that even through I’m fully out and growing gracefully into my bland, Buttigiegian lifestyle, there are still all of these things that I’ve been holding onto as something I should be embarrassed about. Even though they’re completely inconsequential. Like having crushes. Or conforming to stereotypes. Or even being shallow.

I’ve offhandedly mentioned before how Instagram had an overly large impact on me. For better or worse, but mostly better. As lousy and downright toxic as the platform is, it undeniably helped change how I see myself. For the first 40 years or so, I thought of myself as being gross and ugly, and I felt like there was so much wrong with me. Then I started getting attention from bear dudes on Instagram. All of a sudden, strangers were giving me compliments, and I hadn’t had to do anything to win them over!1Except maybe grow a beard? I was finally being properly objectified!

Is that narcissistic? Hell yes it is! But it’s also rippled out to make a subtle but profound difference. Just this morning, after I took a shower, I saw myself in the mirror and I didn’t give a dejected sigh. Instead I thought, “that’s me, and I’m fine with that.” I don’t have to immediately shut down anybody giving me a compliment.2I’m still bad at that, but trying to get better. I don’t have to try desperately to make people laugh to get them to like me. I can just relax.

And it wasn’t lost on me that I was making this observation on the last day of Pride month. How it doesn’t just mean flags and parades, but shedding any sense of shame or embarrassment over the millions of harmless things that make up you. It also made me feel a step closer to understanding what transgender people go through, finally being able to have an outward appearance that matches how they feel on the inside.

Obviously I don’t want to underestimate the significance of coming out, or the importance of political activism and solidarity. But I feel like Pride month reduces a ton of ideas to symbols, flags, and cliches, so that it’s easy to forget it means a complete rejection of shame, embarrassment, and fear. Refusing to listen to anyone who’s getting in the way of your pursuit of happiness, even if — or maybe especially if — that person is yourself.

  • 1
    Except maybe grow a beard?
  • 2
    I’m still bad at that, but trying to get better.

One thought on “A Shallow But Sincere Pride Message”

  1. Beautiful post. Watching people around me go through the same thing (or similar experiences, myself included) and, over the years, get more and more comfortable with actually being who they are and being absolutely content with that just makes me so happy. Getting to the point where you receive the validation that you’re wanted and welcome, even if you’ve struggled in the past with figuring out what that is and how to present that to the world, is amazing. It’s so freeing when you don’t need masks anymore.

    (I don’t mean that last sentence in a Qanon way. Do wear masks in case of global pandemics.)

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