This year’s gay pride parade was my second since coming out. Last year, attending the parade was a way for me to celebrate my own personal triumph in finally accepting and embracing my identity as a gay woman. This year was different. This year I got to attend with a girl I love, and as such it took on an entirely new meaning.
There are a lot of people who are confused by the notion of pride, who think it is odd to celebrate one’s sexuality, and conceptually, I understand. It is odd to celebrate and be proud of who you are attracted to, but for those of us in relationships that are still seen as unacceptable by so many, having a day completely dedicated to celebrating our love is truly one of the most wonderful things.
This year at the gay pride parade, I got to be with my girlfriend in public without feeling like anyone was staring at me or judging me. We got to act like a couple in public and know that everyone around us would only react with smiles and cheers. We got to hold hands and embrace without having to turn our heads from side to side to make sure we weren’t upsetting anyone who looked stronger than we were. For the first time, I got to kiss my girlfriend in public and feel completely safe. Until that parade, I didn’t realize how much that would mean to me.
A few weeks ago, the two of us were walking to our respective homes, and at the corner where we had to separate, my girlfriend told me she didn’t want to kiss me goodbye because she didn’t want the wrong person to see it happen, follow me, and teach me a lesson. It hurt my heart to know she had to worry about me like that and to know that her worry was not unwarranted. These kinds of anxieties arise in us all the time, and while we are lucky enough to have never experienced any problems, it is still difficult not to get a little bit nervous in public. I want to be open and carefree about public displays of affection because I am not ashamed of who I am in the slightest, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes PDA is dangerous. At the pride parade, for the first time ever the two of us got to act like a couple without feeling afraid. It was more liberating than I could have imagined.
Being publicly in love without fear of scrutiny is a privilege granted to heterosexual couples. I didn’t know what I was missing until I finally got the chance to safely and publicly celebrate my own love. It felt so good not having to hesitate in taking her hand or touching her arm, and it felt so good getting to kiss the girl that I am so proud to be with. It felt so good to hope people were looking for once, to hope everyone around me could see that I have the best one.
Pride is a big party, yes, but it is a big party that gave me the opportunity to act in a way that so many others get to every single day. I hope someday I will feel totally safe holding my girlfriend’s hand anywhere and not just in a sea of rainbows, but for now, I am so grateful I have that day to do so.