Pride Then, Pride Now, Pride Always

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I have to admit, I had written a piece on my first experiences with pride and what it means to me the week before the Orlando shooting. With an exceptionally broken heart and eternally bruised soul I sat and stared at what I wrote and said no, there’s more to this idea of pride and sharing my first pride story didn’t really fit it right in this moment. So I erased it, right there on the spot. Pride by its very definition is to be especially proud of a particular quality or skill. But somehow, in this post Orlando world, it’s SO MUCH MORE than the root meaning of the word. In actuality pride is synonymous with community, that sense of belonging that we all seek in order to be our best selves. That center of the universe where it all shifts into focus and the weight carried on your back becomes lighter, you smile more and become a part of something greater.

Pride to me is a fundamental part of the life I live, I feel at times that it literally runs through my veins.  The feeling at a pride event, be it a parade or backyard bbq, is beyond words. Watching a group of people 

Pride Night 2016: l to r, Dan (dad), Me, Taryn (mom), Wyatt (dad's partner)

Pride Night 2016: l to r, Dan (dad), Me, Taryn (mom), Wyatt (dad’s partner)

sidelined by everyday life, told they are not equal in the eyes of others, get together and celebrate existence is extraordinary. I felt this perhaps more so the night after the Orlando massacre as it was our annual Pride Dance celebration in Napa.

This small town I live in is tremendously lucky to have within it multiple organizations doing amazing things for the LGBTQ community. I was first introduced to Napa’s LGBTQ goings on by my dad in the first few years after his coming out. Back then it was named Napa Unity League. They held monthly mixers, participated in activist marches and held an annual dance. Over the years I became very close with many of the people who attended these events, they became my extended family.  Because that’s exactly the feeling we all got when we were together, family. As more years went by the LGBTQ movement come to the forefront and our groups got larger and more diverse. Twelve years later there is now a full fledged non-profit LGBTQ Connection, a social group UnityNapa and my beloved PFLAG Napa. Between these 3 groups and members of the community, an all volunteer group Napa Valley LGBTQ Pride was formed. Napa Valley Pride produces an annual Pride Week with events ranging from fogatas to dinners out, drag shows to picnics in the park. As it goes, that annual dance is still the top billing all these years later. I was incredibly lucky to have been a part of the planning committee for 5 years.

Which brings us back to the Sunday night after some of the most heartbreaking events to occur in my lifetime. It’s my favorite night of the year, yet this time it feels… heavy. There is a deep seated pain in my gut, I look around at all these people I have known for many years and care about deeply and think it could have been any one of us. I look at my dad who is dancing his heart out on the dance floor and think that could have been him. The tears didn’t stop at all that night, they aren’t stopping now as I write this. As the DJ cut the music, we all stood together hand in hand, in a large circle. The room was silent except for the wordless sounds of sadness and tears. We stayed like that locked in a moment of grief for our brother and sisters lost for being who they are, just like us in this room. The rest of that night we all danced together, danced for those who couldn’t dance anymore. It was all we could ever do to honor our community, to honor our PRIDE.

The revelation that came to me that night is that pride is our lives, it’s everything we do, we carry it with us wherever we go hoping that someone else has it too. It is our community we create with others like us. Its why wonderful things like the Gay Dad Project exist, a community gathering place for people with similar stories and lifelines. And that to me makes pride eternal.

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