2022 has been one hell of a year. Full stop.
June is right around the corner, which means Pride and also means we are only halfway through this damn year.
One thing that keeps resurfacing for me during this time, on top of everything else, is grief. Four months ago I lost someone I never truly ever got to say goodbye to. Someone that impacted my life more than I think I have been able to fully process, let alone have the emotional capacity to write about.
When I think of Pride I think of the ways in which other people have had an impact on me accepting myself for who I am and being loudly proudly Queer.
For me, being Queer has always been about community – the people in my life past and present have all had a direct impact on me being able to be comfortable with who I am today. My Queer elders, who are strangers I never met and yet family all the same, before me that fought for their rights and for the ones that were able to survive in a world that didn’t accept them and the ones that had their lives taken from hate & violence, or disease.
I always knew who I was, truthfully – but internalized homophobia and messages I received directly or indirectly growing up didn’t let me accept that piece of me.
I’ve told this story many times before, but it took me being drunk off tequila sitting on an ex-boyfriend’s porch on a snowy December day my junior year of undergrad to admit to myself what I had been denying for 21 years. I was gay, like really fucking gay.
Fast forward to that spring and being back in my hometown of Cape May where I worked doubles as a server all summer long or spent whatever days I had off at the beach. I was still in the process of accepting who I was, finding the courage to tell people in my life, and that’s when I met Jamie.
She was like a bright burst of light that swooped into my life at just the right moment. Jamie saw me for me – before I was completely comfortable admitting it to myself or others. There was a lot of love and a lot of complications involved – but that was the summer I learned to begin to accept who I was. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the impact and influence she had on me becoming the outloud, proud Queer that I am today.
The way she would remind me and have such utter confidence in who she thought I would become – at 21 I was blind to that. I didn’t realize the gifts I was being given with having her in my life and the memories we were making in the moment. Until they were just that, memories.
She appreciated me for the bighearted, sensitive, dork that I am and was. We connected over many things – mostly music, skateboarding, and writing. Everyday when we would work a shift together and my skateboard was left unattended she would surprise me by adding a random sticker that I would end up finding later on (keep in mind my skateboard was already filled with stickers, so sometimes I wouldn’t realize it for a little while).
It has been a long time since I took my flexdex out for a ride, but over these past couple of weeks I find myself reconnecting with that piece of me again and in some ways it has made me feel close to the memory of Jamie. As I was riding around this morning and stopped to grab coffee I looked down at my board for a moment and saw one of the stickers that I hadn’t noticed in awhile because it’s so tiny. It says, “i love you ❤ <3” and I felt a chill rush down my spine.
Now, I do believe that things happen for a reason and that people and messages come into our lives when we need them most. With so many changes going on in my life right now, it felt like in that moment she was reminding me of how far I come and in small ways she will always be with me. We often used to joke about that quote that is said often – if a writer cares deeply for you, you never truly die. You live on in the words they write.
10 years ago I met her- the person that pushed the cycle of self-acceptance and love for myself into motion. It’s hard to believe this next phase of my life won’t even have her popping in it just to catch up and see how things are. We lost touch over the past couple of years, and it has weighed on me to think how much she was suffering. The love I have for her, and that we had for each other will always be imprinted into who I am and who I will continue to become.
I am grateful 10 years later to be where I am, and where I am going. This journey hasn’t been an easy one. It has taken me many obstacles to fully embrace the Queer person I am. But like I have been saying, it takes community.
Surrounding yourself with people that see you for you and love you because of it all – not in spite of it. Now that I am older and have friends that are parents embracing their Queer children with unconditional love gives me so much hope – especially in a time where hope feels hard to grasp on to.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be where I am and I owe so much of it to the people in my life. Both here and gone.
So this Pride month keep in mind whether you are an ally, questioning, or part of the community that it isn’t all rainbows. Growing up in a society that teaches heternormative and binary gender stereotypes from birth reinforces harm.
I say this often, but being Queer is one of my absolute favorite things about myself. I didn’t get there overnight and there are still times when I am afraid to fully be myself in spaces. I know the violence of words being spewed for just walking down a street – I’ve heard enough of it my entire life.
I’ll continue to live my truth, to be true to me – I owe it to the people that have always seen me for me (even when I didn’t yet accept it) and for the Queer community I belong to past, present, and future.
Stay gay ya’ll.