My pride and advocacy for the 2SLGBTQIA community is something I often showcase on my social media pages and incorporate heavily into the work I do. While I’ve been able to empower others through this, it’s become increasingly important for me to acknowledge that my relationship with my identity and pride didn’t start out that way. In fact, my very first memory of pride is tied to feelings of confusion and fear.
The impacts of my identity journey
One of the most common emotions amongst this community is the feeling of not belonging, which is something I experienced early on. I worried that my true self wouldn’t be accepted in the spaces I was part of, especially at a young age. From being scared to hold hands in public, to being hidden from parents so they wouldn’t know their daughter was seeing a woman, I dealt with situations that were far from welcoming.
When I first started to vocalize my identity journey, there was an underlying hesitation.
How is this going to affect in my life? Are my friends still going to like me? How will my parents react? How do I even explain any of this?
Those questions are ones that constantly floated around in my mind. I tried to remind myself that if my brother and sister didn’t have to sit our parents down and let them know they are heterosexual – why should I have to explain my sexuality? Thankfully, when I decided to acknowledge what I knew others around me probably already knew, my parents were supportive and receptive. I know this is a privilege that many do not have access to- I’m extremely grateful that I could openly talk about my identity and sexuality without the pressure of “coming out.”
“I’m a hybrid.”
I remember letting those words out of my mouth and allowing the “What does that mean?” questions to sink in.
“It means I don’t want to do ballet anymore, and I want to dress like a boy.”
At the time, that was the best language available to me, and it was the only way I knew how to express the changes I wanted to make going forward.
Finding comfort and acceptance in community
The first memory I have of celebrating and attending a pride festival brings back a lot of emotions – from excitement to confusion. Leading up to the actual day, I even felt fear, which was rooted in having never been around openly queer people before. I didn’t know what to expect and I had no idea what that could be or feel like.
I was worried that outside my friends and family, society viewed being queer as something to be ashamed of.
I remember walking down Church Street in Toronto on June 1st, 2004, completely in awe of my surroundings. I felt represented. I felt understood. Above all, I felt accepted. It was the first time in my life that I witnessed true collectiveness. I remember thinking, “There are so many people that are just like me.” To experience the energy of being free, ecstatic, and open in public, changed my entire perspective. As incredible as that day was, I left with a lot of questions for myself.
What work have I done to help this community get here? How did I fight for this? In what ways can I contribute to this movement?
I wanted to ensure I could make a lasting impact on the 2SLGBTQIA community. I promised myself that I would not forget the amount of work it took to get to the moments of joy and openness. For the many generations before us, Pride wasn’t a celebration or a party-like event. It was a fight for equality – and it’s something we are still marching for to this day.
What I’ve learned over the years
To me, pride means the obvious: being proud of who I am, however I am. It’s a simple concept, but it can take months, years, even decades to truly live as you are, unapologetically. To me, pride means being accepted, understood and valued by others. It means being accepted as I am, unconditionally. It means being able to hold hands with whomever I choose, dress however I want and show up as my authentic self – something that everyone, regardless of how they identity, deserve to experience.
For a long time, I internalized big parts of my journey. There were moments of shame, guilt, panic, frustration and pain. Over time, I’ve been able to create a new narrative for myself – one filled with joy, confidence, acceptance and pride. No matter what stage of your journey with pride you’re in, I hope you are able to find belonging in community, just like I did.
If you are curious, you can check out my other contributor posts on jillianharris.com, here! Sending LOTS of love and HAPPY PRIDE!