The Right To Be Proud

Happy Pride month!

I can’t make it to my local Pride parade this year because I have to travel for work. I’m bummed about it, but what I love about the LGBTQ+ community is that it’s really strong online, so I can still connect with people across the country.

The official flag of Lesbian Jesus, Hayley Kiyoko. 

The official flag of Lesbian Jesus, Hayley Kiyoko. 

I identify as bisexual/queer and have been publicly out for about two years. I actually wrote about coming out for HelloGiggles last year. Two years ago was also the tragic Pulse shooting that took the lives of 49 LGBTQ+ people. When it happened, I wrote a little essay for myself, because I was shocked for days afterwards. Here is an excerpt from it:

“I have never felt so connected and deeply impacted by a mass shooting. I am a white, cisgendered queer woman who has been lucky to experience minimal first-hand discrimination. My heart is heavy with pain for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have been impacted by this tragedy, either personally or from a distance like myself. Our peers deserve better.

LGBT+ people have safe spaces like Pride and gay clubs for a reason. We are carving out a place in this world free of hate where we can celebrate who we are. If that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s because you don’t need a designated safe space to hold hands with or kiss the person you love. This awful tragedy is not dissimilar to a shooting in a place of worship. Killing people in a place that they thought was perfect for them to be the most honest versions of themselves, a place that provides them comfort.

I have always mourned the loss of innocent people to gun violence. But for the first time, it’s personal for me. I now understand how prayers and love and social media posts of support are nowhere near enough. That the kind words of people removed from the situation and the community, while wonderful, do nothing to reassure me that I will ever be completely safe again in this world. I feel helpless thinking of how easy it is for a homophobic, racist domestic abuser to acquire a gun. I think of people in my life who are queer - my roommate and her girlfriend, my father’s cousin, one of my sixth grade teachers, former high school classmates, many friends I’ve made in college - and feel physically sick at the idea of someone like the Orlando shooter ending their lives.

I am weary. It took me a while to comes to terms with my sexuality, to figure out who I was and find a place I felt that I fit in. I don’t want to live my life in fear or hide who I am and try to pass for straight, because I am not. I want to be proud, I want to go to Pride events and to gay nightclubs and bars. I am bisexual and I want to have the right to exist without persecution.”

That was in 2016. Long before Parkland. It was supposed to be the shooting that finally changed the conversation, but of course it wasn’t.

The shirt is the "Venus Tit Tee" from my favorite feminist boutique,  Otherwild . 

The shirt is the "Venus Tit Tee" from my favorite feminist boutique, Otherwild

On a happier note, one of the amazing things about the LGBTQ+ community is that we are fighters and we love to stick it to those who try to keep us down. We are fierce, in every sense of the word.

I took these photos (well, my lovely sister was my photographer) with the kickass Hayley Kiyoko TwentyGayteen flag I bought when I bought her album this year. There are a few LGBTQ+ musicians who have been important in my coming out process, but Hayley is at the top. When I first discovered “Girls Like Girls,” I felt so valid in my identity. The lyric “Girls like girls like boys do, nothing new,” caused something in me to click and suddenly it was all so clear. I felt so sure of who I was. I liked girls.

No one has simplified it down like that before. No confusion, no “I kissed a girl and knew I liked girls.” Just, “it’s nothing new or special.” I recently saw Hayley Kiyoko live and when she sang “Girls Like Girls,” the entire audience sang along. Being in that room full of queer women was the most incredible, affirming experience. It was magic.

Be queer, be dope, be proud. 

Be queer, be dope, be proud. 

I celebrate my queerness out loud every damn day of the year now that I’m out. But having a month for LGBTQ+ folks is pretty awesome too.

If you’re not in the community, please support us year round. Donate to charities, call people out when they’re being homophobic/transphobic. Everyone on this planet should have the right to be proud of who we are 💖