I Found My Self-Worth in the Affirming Joy of Pride
It has become increasingly important for QTPOC to find our own spaces to celebrate Pride our own way. However, there’s something to be said about our first encounters with Pride, even if they did not represent each of our intersecting identities. If these moments are the first time that we become aware that we belong, they are unforgettable. These experiences greatly impact our self-esteem and ease the strain on our mental health as we discover who we are. It’s only when we feel validated that we have the capacity to find community with our own chosen families.
Before I moved to NY, I had been living my life as a person who wasn’t whole. I was going through the motions, unable to express all parts of myself in a healthy way. When I made the transition from the suburbs of NJ to the city, I knew it was my time to come out as my authentic self. I was ready to make a change but I wasn’t emotionally ready to live fully in my truth. It seemed the foundation I had built my self-worth upon was crumbling as I stepped into my actualized identity as a queer woman.
The things that made me valuable in the eyes of the outside world were becoming less important to me. As a queer woman, there were things I still had to grapple with. It was not as simple as acknowledging my attraction to women. I’d only known relationships with men, and I’d only known a life where I was expected to marry one person, have 2.5 children and a white picket fence although I rejected much of these ideals even before coming out.
But in June 2014, when I stumbled upon the NYC Pride March while trying to maneuver my way through the city, my whole world changed. The vision of rainbows and brightly colored ensembles were more than an overwhelming display of unapologetic queerness: it was a manifestation of all of the things I was forbidden to embrace. The March, in all of its gaudiness and splendor, showed me that I mattered. In the humdrum life that I once occupied, there was a shining glimmer of hope.
What stood out to me then were the different representations of queerness. There were floats filled with people of all orientations and gender identities, ethnicities, races, occupations, and ages. I had never seen such a plethora of expressions representing our whole community until then. Being embraced in such a public way was new and scary, but it was finally my reality. The joy of people dancing and singing in the streets was infectious and I knew that they had gone through this journey too. Their jubilation and comfort in who they were, even if it was amplified only for this moment, gave me hope. I knew that my life had to change. I had to be more intentional in the way that I was growing in my queer identity.
The next year, I continued to work through my journey of self-discovery and struggled with things like labels, family acceptance, and a new world of dating. When I went to the NYC Pride March in 2015, on purpose this time, I stood more firmly in who I was. I stayed at the March for at least four hours and enjoyed every minute of it.
Without experiencing the March, I wouldn’t be the fully-realized queer woman that I am today. Being recognized by a broader community gave me the strength to seek out people who I could relate to on all levels, particularly racially and culturally. Attending mainstream Pride was a catalyst for gaining the confidence to be exactly who I am — a queer Black woman. These moments of validation gave me the emotional foundation I needed to address how I was going to present myself to the world and how I was going to continue to live my life with purpose. Because this open door gave me the space to come into my own, I felt encouraged to seek more holistically affirming spaces where I would truly grow.
From there, I sought out spaces that centered QTPOC who shared similar values. I found creatively conscious safe havens and communities that represented the African diaspora. Even more than in the mainstream Pride festivities, I could be who I really was in the midst of people who were like me. I learned that finding yourself is an ongoing process that is not always linear; it is marked by defining moments, both big and small, that lead to creating a support system and exploring what is needed to feel comfortable in your own skin. I’m grateful for these invaluable experiences and that I was able to be immersed in the spectrum of queer spaces while becoming grounded in my own self-worth.
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