By: Joey Uva
It’s June already! June brings the start of summer. It’s also the official Pride month for many cities in the country. I have attended Pride in West Hollywood for the last 17 years and I can honestly say as a gay man, “Pride” means much more to me now than it did when I first came out.
When I first came out, I went to Pride with pure joy and a strong, proud sense that I was finally coming into my truth. It was liberating. I remember being that scantily-dressed cowboy and marching so proudly. I was out and proud. I can look back now and say that I had worked a lot on the outside but had a long way to go on the inside. I had no idea who that twenty-something Joey was or what he actually stood for. Don’t get me wrong; those were great times but being truly proud has been a journey for me. I would never erase those times even if I could because even the smallest path has lead to where I am now.
After many years of going to Pride, I started becoming more involved in the LGBT community, understanding what Pride really represented. I was now trying to figure out who I really was and who I wanted to be. I reminded myself of things I wanted to accomplish in my life and the goals I had set for myself. I have met many great friends along the way who became mentors and role models. These friends have helped me grow and become a more self-aware person.
What does “Pride” mean to me today? It means a lot. I am proud that I never gave up on my dreams; being gay does not set my boundaries in life. I am proud to have my beautiful and loving family. I am proud that even with all those individuals who spoke their opinion –threw opposition my way because they did not understand why I, as a gay man, would want to have a child –I still followed my heart and listened to that voice that is exclusively and internally mine. Being a father is the best decision I have ever made. Having my daughter has taught me pride. It has taught me that being me, listening to my inner self, and remembering that throughout each step on my journey through life will be the guiding light that makes my life truly mine. Nobody has the right to define what my life should be or look like. I am the sole keeper.
Long Beach Pride just past. Trevor, Grace, and I were invited to a friend’s boat on the harbor for dinner. We did not attend the parade or the festival but had our own little Pride celebration on a boat. We could hear the music from the festival as it blew with the sea breeze across the harbor. It was a great evening that made me reflect on Pride for others and myself. I imagined how it must feel to someone who has just come out to go to Pride. It must feel so liberating and wonderful to be around so many people with whom you can identify; I remember it being that way for me. I wondered: what would the younger Pride celebrators have to say in twenty years? What will they look back on and be proud of? Where will our society be in twenty more years? What will I be proud of in twenty years?
Am I gay and proud? Absolutely! For me, being gay and proud is much more then celebrating our differences. It’s also about remembering and celebrating those who came before us. Remembering how far we have come and where we need to be. It’s about celebrating individuality, opportunity, and families –and working towards the freedoms that we all deserve.
Happy Pride! Now go out there and celebrate!!!!