Pride Season is Here – Rocky’s Pride Story
Pride season is here, that in combination with the beginning of summer makes this one of my favorite periods of the year. This years celebrations are gearing up to be exceptionally meaningful as it looks as if the Supreme Court is ready to rule in favor marriage equality. Hopefully this is true and we the rulings bring sweeping changes across the country. Progress like this reminds me to look back and reflect how far we all have come to end stigmas and inequality.
Even though the specifics of our stories are all different, members of the LGBTQ community have common life experiences that we all share. Being disowned by family, abandoned by close friends, discrimination, bullying, and sometimes violence are all situations we are forced to cope with. Some of our stories have happy endings but unfortunately many end in tragedy. I feel it is important for us to share those experiences with each other and the world to help bring discrimination to an end. Through sharing we can lift each other up, show our allies how their support has helped, and build compassion in our adversaries to start them down the path to understanding and tolerance.
As long as I can remember I knew I was different than the other boys.
My first crush was on the guy from Knight Rider, lol. I don’t know how, but even at the age of seven I knew this was not the feelings I was supposed to be having to have for a man as far as others people were concerned. From the toys we play with, the clothes we wear, and the people we are told we can fall in love with, society conditions us to live a heterosexual life. To conform to this I learned at an early age to hide key elements of my true self to fit into the world as I knew it. By the time I reached an age I could think and act for myself I had mastered the art showing the world only the parts of me I wanted to be seen.
Once I reached my teenage years and my hormones kicked in I began to have extreme feelings of excitement, confusion, and paralyzing fear. I was excited to experience these new sensations with my body, confused because society taught me that those sensations were wrong, an fearful because if anyone discovered my desires I would be shamed, outcast and abandoned. I was beginning to understand exactly what I was, and I wanted it to stop. I did not want to be different. I wanted to grow up, marry some girl, have 2.5 kids, and live a “normal” life. How could I want anything but this? I had been conditioned to believe this was the life I was meant to live. Every tv show I ever watched, every movie I ever experienced, and every book I had ever read trained me to live a straight lifestyle. In order for me to have this life I would have to build a world of lies around me.
As I transitioned into high school I thought that I had done a pretty good job of hiding that part of me. Apparently, not very well because everyday I was called a faggot by some asshole in the halls. Friends and co-workers whispered behind my back trying to figure out what team I was playing for. The more people the wondered about me the more I denied pieces of myself. EverydayI had to hold high and pretend I was not deeply hurting.
I look back now and ask myself why did I not have the courage to be honest with myself and the world. The answer is a combination of ignorance and fear. At that time I knew nothing accurate about the gay and lesbian community. I only knew it as that it was something I wanted no part of. I was told that homosexuals all had AIDS and were going to die slow horrible deaths. They molested children, made people sick and when they left this Earth they had a one way ticket to hell. Faggot and sissy, were words I had often heard being used to describe us. I did what was safe and did not question. I forced myself to want false dream, and that is what I thought I was going to have to do for the rest of my life.
Things changed for me in my early twenties, when finally there was strange a catalyst for change. My best friend had arranged for us to go on a double date with these two girls. It turned out that the girls were bisexual and they convinced us to go to a little nightclub called Neighbors. Walking through the doors at Neighbors changed my life forever. I was for the first time seeing the gay community in action. Not in its entirety of course, there is more to our community than clubbing. It was a little snippet that opened my eyes and showed me I was not alone, and it was amazing. Hot boys dancing with boys, sexy girls on girls, Fabulous drag queens, and beautiful go-go boys. In fact everyone in that club was beautiful that night. Somehow I convinced my friends and the girls that I had to go. I dropped them all off at home and and went back to Neighbors and had the time of my life. Over the next few weeks I went their quite often. I met friends and acquaintances that helped set me on the path to come to terms with who I really was and opening the door to loving my entire self.
This piece is too short for me to fully express my experiences. Finding myself and happiness was not an overnight process. All of my problems were not solved by one fantastic night at Neighbors. It took me until late into my twenties to realize that the part of myself I had buried had created a ball of self hate and loathing. But eventually with with the support of friends, family I am able to be completely happy with my true self. Today I am a proud black, gay, queer, homosexual man. I want everyone to feel safe being true to themselves. And I want all of us to hold each other up and give us strength to feel safe in doing so. Happy Pride Everyone!
Photo credits – Rocky’s Facebook Page and Nate Gowdy (personal photographer to the Divas)