Introduction to ‘Pass the Mic: Wear Your Pride Edition’
by CCO, Chyler Leigh
We, as the Create Change Team, are always tremendously appreciative of our community’s response to the campaigns we launch but the number of entries for the #WearYourPride campaign we’ve received, in particular, has been awe-inspiring. From essays to artwork to poetry, we’ve been blown away by the creativity and courage this global community has consistently offered, not just to our team, but most importantly, among the Create Change family as a whole. That means you and you and you! The encouragement and compassion you’ve given one another has truly proven that the scars we bear, the stories we share are making a huge impact in the hearts and minds of all those who are blessed to see, hear, and read them. Being proud of who you are might not always come easily and can oftentimes be opposed when you speak aloud, but the reward far outweighs the risk when you can stand confident knowing that you are more than worthy of acceptance. Even a single drop of self-awareness and love can create waves of pure and positive change, reaching farther than you could ever imagine. Please take some time to check out these selected entries we feel represent a vast cross-section of all the wonderful submissions we received. Keep sharing. Keep listening. Keep supporting those around you. Keep advocating for yourself and those you care about. Your bravery is undeniably valiant and your voices… music to our ears. #WearYourPride.
In mid-sentence, she closed the distance in three quick steps and kissed me…hard. My knees buckled. I would have fallen on my ass had I not been leaning against the hood of my car. I had no idea collapsing like that was anything but a made-up, movie-fantasy reaction. I was stunned on several levels, to say the least. It was so much more than that – I was stupefied, speechless, and mentally catatonic. After a few minutes, there were only two concrete streams of thought.
First and foremost, “Oh….shit…what?…how?….whoa,” and other incoherent ramblings from the consciousness that was trying to “stay cool.” I think, on the outside, I may have appeared somewhat low-keyed as I typically would when everything inside goes absolutely silent. She backed right back up and returned her derrière to the hood of her car and looked at me, Cheshire-cat like. I don’t remember any of that evening after that, or before that, for that matter. But, I vividly remember how that kiss felt from initial breath-catching surprise, to warmer and more comfortable than anything I have ever felt, to dropping right back down on my car incapacitated.
The second thought was more of an underlying hum that didn’t actually solidify into anything specific for a few days. My subconscious took that event and started putting lifelong pieces of the puzzle together. Some about her, some about me from before I met her, some about other interactions with people from prior years. A few days later, out of the blue, the thought popped right into my conscious reality, “you’re gay.” It was just…there…with no accompanying fanfare. Just a small, little factoid that shifted everything I thought I knew about myself. Right out loud, I said to myself, “Huh. Well, that explains things. That makes so much sense. Why did I never put that together before?”
You may have heard some people talk about such an epiphany like, “I think I always knew,” or, “from the time I was 5 years old…” I am here to confirm that not everyone has that underlying self-awareness. I was caught up short. A 26-year-old woman who thought she was pretty smart. 100%. Clue. Less…
…After my big realization, things made much more sense to my analytical brain. I had just been missing essential pieces of the puzzle…But when SHE kissed me, there were no thoughts, no analysis, just an explosion of sensations radiating out from my chest to my fingers and toes. I don’t even remember driving home.
So, if you were gonna ask, “How do you know?” I just KNOW. The evidence is overwhelming. It just took some time, much longer than expected, to get quiet inside and let it surface.
For someone that is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, Pride is something that I live with. But pride for me is something more than a month, more than a word or a feeling. It is something that I keep in my mind to always live up to…
…We focus so much on trying to prove ourselves to others by having the perfect grades, having the perfect body to fit in, forcing ourselves to agree with someone who is clearly wrong, never fighting back because that person is the one who rules so to make him proud we just stay in our place. We do this because in our minds we feel like we are not enough.
We must acknowledge that the things we so much want to prove are for the others — we actually want to prove to ourselves. In reality, we owe those others nothing. We are enough. Pride is us. Pride, to me, is a being that reflects myself, and that reflection is something that I’m proud of. All the imperfections, all the physical scars from years of suffering, all the emotional scars that taught me how to be who I am today…all the STRIPES. I’m proud of all of me and when I look at that reflection, I see Pride. I see myself in the best way possible.
Pride represents who I am, without judging, without shame and without fear of being my true self.
Just like how one single colour has a spectrum with different shades, Pride is also a spectrum.
You might be out, loud and proud for the world to see. Or you might be only out to yourself, and that’s okay too. Or You might even be an Ally in the community who is proud of their friends. No matter where you fall on the spectrum you deserve to feel proud about who you are. It’s also important that we respect where others are on the spectrum. Everyone is unique with their own stories and it’s not fair to pass judgment on others because they aren’t the same as you, at the end of the day we are all in this fight together…
…It took three years, friends. Three years before I could call myself a lesbian. It was a year ago that I finally admitted to myself that I was a lesbian and I came out to my best friends. They embraced me with open and loving arms.
I’m not out to my family though, I’m not ready for that. I know that as soon as my parents know that they will cut off all contact from me and I might be 24 now, but I’m human, and I still need my mom. I know that in order to live my full life I’ll need to tell her at some point. After all, I want a wife and a family. And you can’t really do that in secret. But right now, we’re on a need to know basis and I just started dating again so right now she doesn’t need to know…
…But, what all this boils down to is that pride for me is that I am able to be truthful with myself and that I can be out and be myself with my friends. I’m now also able to be myself with my little sister. Yesterday morning I came out to her, we were having a beach day as she’s visiting for the week and I told her. I was terrified, unsure of what her reaction would be, after all we had the same strict religious upbringing, but she was very accepting of me and loving and thanked me for trusting her enough to tell her. So, I’m proud of myself. I shook for a solid two hours after I told her, but I am so proud of myself.
…And I’m proud of every one of you that are on this pride spectrum. We see you guys out front waving flags and being loud and proud, but we also see you guys still completely in the closet waving a tiny flag to yourself. I like to say that I’m half in and half out of that closet, but I know who I am and right now and that’s really all that matters. And no matter where you fall on the pride spectrum, I want you to know that you are loved and valid. I’ll say it again: You are Loved. You are Valid. And I am so SO proud of you.
I’m pretty sure I’ve been overthinking this assignment, but try as I might I can’t seem to simplify it so that I can feel ‘pride.’ I know that sounds horrible, and I wish I could say that I wear my pride and live freely but the truth of the matter…I don’t. It’s not because I can’t. In theory I can, but I guess when it comes down to brass tacks, I don’t know how. I don’t know how to exist on this earth as a whole person, so rather than risk everything, I gently try and negotiate the barbed wire on the fence that has become my life. One foot in my religion, ever unrelenting with its expectations to be heterosexual, marry and have kids. Meanwhile my other foot is living a mild yet gay life. Opposing views, fraught with landmines that on any given day will trip me up, setting off mental explosions triggering self-loathing on demand either for turning from who I am, or for not fully embracing what I am. Much like oil and water, sure the vision can be pretty but they never really mix.
I hate to make this analogy but it literally just came to me…so buckle up buttercup. Supergirl is essentially made up of two parts, her blood is Kryptonian but she lives a human experience. Every so often an episode airs where she is struggling with who or what she is, and how she can’t seem to merge the two lives into one and that’s the closest I can come to help you understand what it’s like living as a gay Mormon. I can no more stop being Mormon than Supergirl can escape the deadly results of Kryptonite. I can no more deny being attracted to women than Supergirl can breath outside Earth’s atmosphere. While there are far worse ways to live, having your eternal salvation risked and questioned with every beat of your heart, is miserable. I exist, without really existing.
So when we talk about pride, I don’t experience it like many of those like me do…and part of me has given up trying. But I will tell you this, I do have pride and I’ve worked damn hard for it.
My pride comes from being me, whoever that is, faults and all, and in helping others. My pride comes from comforting those who are cast aside, providing resources to those who are lost and giving others hope when life has become all consuming. When I’m being a therapist, that is when I wear my pride. It’s not a feeling of superiority or being better than someone else. Honestly, it’s the closest I feel to God and the Universe. It’s being present with someone, without expectations and judgement. It’s about doing for others, what I fail to do for myself.
I may never find peace as a gay woman and I may never find peace as a Mormon, but I find peace and strength in giving, supporting and encouraging those I walk this earth with. So if that counts, than being a therapist and social worker is where I can #WearYourPride.
It’s the month of Pride
The month to remind us all, we shouldn’t hide
The time to raise our voice so loud
Let the world to know that we are proud
To walk with our truth and to be as we are
Show our true colors and let them shine like a star
March on the streets
With a loud beat
Inside our heart
Letting us be the conqueror of light
For the ones who choose to live in the dark
But friends, hear me out to what I’m about to say
We need to show our pride every single day
Embrace self love and let ourselves walk with pride
As we leave our mark on the ground
One last thing before I’m done
Remember, each day as we wake up with the dawn
To look in the mirror and know we are rays of light
For us and for others, so this world can be bright
We are beautiful, we are strong, we are worthy
And we will celebrate each day we have on this earth
So raise your voice and say it loud
We Are Proud!
What should I wear today?
Let’s look in the closet…
How about my “I do have a boyfriend, but he doesn’t go to this school” T-Shirt?
Yes, I could pair that with my favourite pair of “playing football doesn’t make me a lesbian” jeans.
Or maybe I could wear my “no, don’t worry, I’m not looking at you in the changing rooms” shirt?
That might go with my “please stop asking my little sister if I’m gay” shorts.
Maybe I’ll put my big coat on again to hide it all.
Actually… you know what,
I think I’ll just wear my pride.
but we don’t break
a strength I’ve never seen before
and we rise again
a force to be reckoned with
be brave enough to be yourself
and love all of your colors
everything that makes you who you are
because you are a spark amidst the dark
but we learn to heal
like an army fighting for liberation
there’s been a war in our hearts
but we will find salvation
please don’t hide away
march full of pride
no matter what they say
wave your flags to the sky
…I think what people fail to realise is that coming out not only to others, but to yourself, is a really long and hard process. Even if you’re ‘out’ doesn’t mean you can’t still have moments in which you feel doubt and fear. I’m not out to everyone in my life yet, I still have to come out to my dad and to my extended family. My dad – not too worried about. I just don’t want things to change, I guess? But some of my extended family are extremely homophobic and it terrifies me. I’ve had to sit there and listen as they’ve said a lot of horrible things, as they discussed why same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legalised (thankfully, it was, despite those who voted no). I have thoughts often where I question if I really am a lesbian, whether I did something wrong, whether this is right.
So, wearing my pride is just something that is so foreign to me. I dream about the day where I can have a girlfriend, when I can put up Pride symbols around my room, when I can openly talk about girls the way I’ve pretended to talk about boys.
…So, friends, I want you to know that wearing your Pride is hard. It might not happen all at once, and that is okay. You’re valid, you’re real, and you’re valued. No matter what. No matter how long it takes for you to speak your truth, no matter how many times you question yourself. It’s going to be okay,
Soon, we’ll be able to wear our Pride, too.
The point of Pride to me is everyone being so authentically themselves, so many people, all so very different and all so not afraid to show their eccentric selves. It’s inspiring and exhilarating. Not being afraid to be weird. That’s what it all comes down to for me, and that’s what all those people celebrating have in common. Not being afraid to be different. That’s what makes me feel so proud and I think that’s what should make them feel proud.
Hear me out. I am not trying to say embracing your sexuality shouldn’t make you proud and is not important, because it is so brave and so freeing in my experience. But it is a delicate balance as I think putting too much weight on who we like can be caging, something we should never do to our identities. We are more than who we’d like to kiss or to which gender, if any at all, we’d classify ourselves…
…eventually, we are so much more than who we like. Rather, we are made up of so many more unique pieces that make us who we are. We should celebrate that we feel free to love, but for me, I will also celebrate at Pride who I was and how much I’ve let myself grow into who I am now. And writing this, I hope with all my heart that everyone reading this can do the same and feel proud.
“Kind. Thoughtful. Relatable. Nonjudgmental. Funny. Smart. Witty. Hippie. Spiritual.” All words used to describe qualities about me that people love. There’s one word though, most of you don’t know me by. This word is perceived to be so negative, and all consuming, that all those great qualities listed above, somehow lose their meaning. This word is one that is cloaked in shame. This word is scary to some of you. Perhaps even disgusting and unfathomable to a few. This word is one that has caused families, friends and marriages to be torn apart. This word is so shameful that some people even take their lives because of it. I am this word. But I am also still, all those other words you think I am. And many others. Writer. Traveler. Human. American. Christian. Advocate. Business Owner. Sister. Daughter. Friend. Cousin. None of those things define me in their entirety.
Nor does gay. Which I am, and have always been. I’ve hidden in shame for most of my life. I was told that I couldn’t or wouldn’t be accepted as I am. That living a half life and a half truth would have to suffice. Well, I tried that for many years, and that nearly killed me. It also caused me to pull away from everyone I love. It even cost me the love of my life in many ways. I know there is a price to pay for what I’m typing right now. I know that I’ll lose people that I love. What I also know is that I deserve a full life. One that I don’t have to hide from. One that I don’t have to be ashamed of. That’s what I’m doing.
I’m still the same crazy girl that made you laugh and held your hand when you cried. I’m still the same girl that kept your secrets, and always will. Even though you’ve turned your back on me. My hope is that one day you’ll be strong enough to live your truth too. And when you are, I’ll be here for you. As I’ve always been. You know who you are. I’m still the girl who loves her Country, who loves Broadway & who loves the Free Enterprise System. I’m exactly who I was before you read this, it just so happens that my sexual preference isn’t yours.
I won’t fight with you. I won’t justify my truth for you. I won’t beg you to stay in my life, should this prove to just be too much for you to handle. I have worked tirelessly to love myself, and I don’t have time or energy to prove to you why I’m worthy. The only person I have to answer to is God, and we are good. He makes no mistakes. I am not a mistake. I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am blessed and highly favored. I hope that this helps some of you see that gay doesn’t have a “look.” It isn’t something that people choose. We are normal, everyday people, who just want to be able to exist without fear. We just want to love and be loved, just like you…
…To those struggling to accept themselves, my inbox is always open. Please don’t think you’re alone. You’re not. You are loved. You are special. You are worthy. You are strong. You are a vital piece in this life.
#HandInHand #BackToBack #TogetherWeCan #LoveWins
PRIDE. What does pride mean to me? Pride to me is loving yourself to the fullest and not being afraid to express your true self to the world. You spend so much time wondering about your worth, wondering who you’re supposed to be, and you go through a lot of self acceptance that when you finally figure it out, you don’t want to spend time hiding in the shadows anymore. Pride is telling the world, “This is me and I’m not afraid of showing it anymore”. And although I still struggle with my self acceptance a bit, it doesn’t mean I’m not proud to be a part of this community. I’ve been through so much and as my mom says, “You’ve survived some of the worst years you’ve had to face, you can do this”.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Create Change or its affiliates.