Last year for Pride, I remember walking in the parade with some of my friends from Legacy, jamming to the song, “Who let the dogs out?” and telling myself, “Nobody knows.” What I meant was, nobody knew that I was gay, even though I was in a parade for gays and trans folk.
Of course, now I’m out, and it’s intense. But I find, very much worth it. I just, for a long time, couldn’t see myself as really being gay. Part of it was because I grew up in a strict, religious, conservative household, and being gay was taboo and unacceptable. But as I continued to live my life, I realized that nothing felt more natural to me, than being gay, and knowing this with a full heart.
I went this year to the Pride Parade and the Pride Festival with my great friend Preston. We got off to a rough start, because they wouldn’t let Preston take his camera into the festival, and we’d walked a long distance in the heat to get there. It wasn’t a good start, it seemed. I almost lost my cool. I was impatient with the situation. I didn’t lose my cool ultimately, because I wasn’t going to sabotage this experience: first time to Pride since being out of the closet. Anyway, I ended up hanging out for a few hours at Pride alone, so Preston could go to my apartment and drop off his camera.
It was an interesting feeling, being at Pride, out and alone. I had a plan, though. I was going to get food, then a shirt, a t-shirt acknowledging my same-sex attractions.
So, the day commenced. I’d been looking forward to it for literally two days. As I joked with my friend, I anticipated Pride so much and had false starts that I wasn’t interested in Pride anymore. A joke, of course, but you get the idea. I had actually walked to Pride a couple days before, and realized when I arrived they were still setting up, and then the next day, I found out that it wasn’t an all-day event, so it didn’t seem worth it to go. Not until Saturday.
Anyway, the day commenced, and I ended up buying a slice of cheese pizza with fresh tomatoes on them. It was good. Nothing fancy, but good enough for me.
Then I began to walk around the campus.
I got confused for a moment, because there were so many booths, and I didn’t know where to start. So, I decided to start at the beginning. You know, the Mad Hatter’s advice, start at the beginning, and then when you get to the end: stop.
I ended up stopping at a place selling literary magazines, which was super cool, given my literary and philosophical background. I thought the guy selling the books was cute, too, didn’t know if he was gay, but he was awesome. I talked to him about the magazine, found out he was on the cover of one of them. I told him I was a writer, and that it was hard being a writer.
I ended up buying one of the volumes, which was nice. I posted it on Facebook, describing how excited I was to sink my teeth into quality LGBT literature. And I found out I could potentially submit pieces.
When we got towards the end of the conversation, I recommended some books. A little bit of William S. Burroughs, Lawn Boy, Edmund White. The good stuff, Being unsure of your sexuality for so long (eight years, in my case) led to a lot of lonely and horny nights reading literature about the gay experience. So I had a whole arsenal to recommend.
Anyway, I continued moving through the booths. Most of them were really nothing amazing, but in the context of my life in that moment, it was great, a good opportunity to get comfortable with myself.
I finally arrived at a booth dedicated to the health of citizens of Salt Lake City. This was a booth I was looking forward to, because I wanted to learn about sex.
The guy told me that guys who are bottoming can wear female condoms. I didn’t know this, but you basically just insert it, and you’re good. It would have been nice to know this sooner, but better late than never. I mention that only because I think it’s a cool idea, a condom for the asshole. And indeed, the frankness of the guy helped put me at ease. He asked me what type of sex I liked, I shyly told him oral. And finally, I could come out and say, when he asked me if I was gay or straight, I’m gay. That was a good feeling, the assertion, even if merely a small moment. He talked me into really considering sex, as he said it feels fantastic to top. I was like, it will be nice either way.
One thing that surprised me was when he told me that the condom can keep you safe one hundred percent, from stuff like AIDS. Which did a little to dismantle my obsession and fear with thinking I’m going to contract an STD or some shit, something I don’t want. Which in turn loosened my expectation about sex, making me calmer. I know I have a long way to go right now, but I know that as time goes by, I’ll get more and more comfortable with sex. Things will just make sense to me.
That was an important booth, but so was the literary magazine, because as a gay man, a gay phoenix, I need to keep in mind that the intellectual realm is still important to me.
Rationalizations, writing, truth: all of it, is important to me still, still very important. It’s a huge part of my identity.
I was amazed at how relaxed I was when I talked to people in the stands. I talked about many things with them, mostly about the content of the booths, but it was nice, I felt cool, especially when I started sucking on a blue Jolly Rancher.
But I still hadn’t gotten a shirt yet. So, I continued the quest. I walked around more, feeling content and open, and finally saw something, something eye catching. The shirt said, “Some people are gay, get over it.” And it was in rainbow colors on a black shirt. This shirt literally jumped out at me.
So, I bought it, for just twelve bucks, feeling excited. Feeling ready. I went to put on the shirt, and then, now feeling open and honest, continued my journey.
But that’s when the heavy feelings hit, and I wasn’t ready for them. I remember needing some space, because I was getting a little sad. I was sad and nostalgic at how far I’d come as a man, which includes my sexual orientation. And I felt a little sad, that this was who I was.
The feelings are difficult to explain, but in short, I needed Preston to be there with me, kind of take the edge off. I was feeling a little lonely, but also happy, that this was who I have always been. We change, sure, but some things are just a part of us. And I realized in that moment, I was out of the closet, and I would need to take both the good and the bad when it came to this. The bad includes judgement, hate, bigotry, ostracism, misunderstanding.
And yet, so many people love and accept me, in real life. I’ve really realized this over the past year, and it’s honestly changed my perspective on myself. People love me despite me being gay. Even Christian friends. This was incredibly poignant when keeping in mind that there were strange people protesting the parade outside. I get it, religion, sticking to morals, whatever. But my experience of them, was them simply promoting hate and intolerance. If they could empathize with my experience even a little bit, I bet they’d come to a much different conclusion, as I ultimately had to. I realized later, trans people and gay people deserve compassion like anyone else.
Intolerance and hate won’t accomplish anything, it just divides people even more. And it’s sad. And this was one reason why I knew, indeed, that I had really entered a Wonderland since leaving the closet. And my identity was different, and I was different. But, moving forward.
These feelings lasted for a while, so I continued to explore the Festival. I listened to a trans person talk about fear, and how fear is a major component to how people of the LGBT community relate to the world. It sucks, that fear is so present in our lives, but I understand this. I was so afraid, for over eight years. I didn’t know who I was. I kept asking myself why I didn’t have a girlfriend during this period. Well, because I was gay.
I listened to the trans person, relating to all that was said. The history of LGBT people is diverse but also heartbreaking, because of all the crimes that people have committed against us. Assault, murder, suicide. Stuff like that. Or medically castrating Alan Turing, who’d saved the Western world, and forcing him to commit suicide. Just because he was gay. Probably one of the smartest people who ever lived, and yet, he didn’t have the chance for a fair life, to live the way he wanted to.
And then Preston showed up! I was excited for this. We talked, I told him I was enjoying myself, and I was. The heavy feelings were still there, but with Preston with me, they were less intense. Preston has been a positive influence in my life, and he was actually the reason why I finally decided to come out of the closet. I had hit on him once, and instead of condemning me, he told me, I needed to deal with my truth, my reality, my emotions. And he was right, even though it was hard, and there were many, many false starts and fears.
We did what friends do: We hung out, and had a lot of fun.
We passed a hat place, and I found three cool hats. One that said Pride in rainbow colors on a black hat, one that said Bitch in colored letters on a black hat, and another hat that said Pride on a flower background. And you know, I like flowers. They are cool. Who cares if that doesn’t match the paradigm of patriarchy in our world?
We joked about the Bitch hat, because we’d just had a run in at a library, for me swearing once, and them pretty much kicking us out. He told me it’d be cool, because I could totally wear that in a library, and see how far I’d get.
I ended up getting a hat, which was cool. I got the Pride black hat.
In the meantime, my friend got some art prints, and that was great. I love my friend Preston.
We hung out for a while, getting into trouble, and it was great. And when we were ready to go, we left.
And with everything going on in my life, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that that was literally one of the best days of my life. The Parade would be tomorrow, something to look forward to. In the meantime, we could chill.
And we did chill. I had a lot to reminisce on, for sure. My life was changing drastically, because the event was helping me accept this deep truth about myself. The best way to describe being gay, is that, even though we live in a Puritan society and sex isn’t seen as a part of us and our identity, I can’t help but say that it is a part of our identity, and we can’t suppress it.
Heterosexuals have a lot of visibility, so it’s easier for them. But homosexual tendencies are looked down on (just think of the protesters I saw), and this affects the psyche, as well as the culture. I didn’t think this was true for a long time, because I’d heard the opposite claim, particularly from religious friends, but I know now that sexual orientation is how a person actually is. In a Puritan society, we can continue denying this, but I’ve found for me, personally, being gay does something for me, something special for me, and being open about it does even more. It’s a deep part of me, and I feel sad when I see people being hateful towards our community. It’s crushing, really.
The next day was the Parade. I went with Preston, not really knowing what to expect, but feeling very excited. I had an idea it was going to be fun.
Later, after the Parade, I talked with my friend Preston about capitalism and how it was integrated into the Parade, into the civil rights of it, without people really being consciously aware. But this makes sense, because there were a lot of businesses claiming to be LGBT friendly, when for them, it was just a matter of the bottom line: money.
We also talked about the Mayor, and how when she came near the beginning of the Parade, saying she wanted equality, I had a hard time seeing this as non-hypocritical. I’ve been critical of her policies towards those experiencing homelessness, and I wondered, in an honest way, how much the Mayor really believes in equality.
We continued to watch the Parade, Preston leaving every once in a while to go and take more photos. I remember enjoying the Parade, enjoying the interesting floats, ranging from floats about organizations about the leather culture and S&M, to seeing trans kids walking proudly in the Parade. I remember actually finding one shirt funny: Trans guys are hotter. Lol.
Truth be told, I like being a guy. I like having a dick, truth be told, and that’s why I like other guys. It’s interesting how my love for the power of the male body doesn’t feed into our culture’s narrative of a specific idea of patriarchy and masculinity. I say this because I could very well, if I was straight, use my dick to oppress other women and groups. But I don’t want that. I just want to be an adorable gay. Cute, too.
Anyway, on the Parade, there were many floats, and they were interesting to watch, coming from me, who was at this point much more open-minded than I had been in previous years. It was indeed fun for me because of this openness and willingness to take part.
It was hard too, though. The guys next to me were interesting, but difficult to engage in any conversation. And the guy on my other side felt out of my reach, in a sense. But even without engaging in conversation with them, I still nonetheless felt more connected to the LGBT community than I ever had before. It was nice. It was nice being around those who identify as gay.
The funny thing about this adventure of mine, though, was that I ran into more straight people than I did gays. That was kind of frustrating, because I was hoping to meet more people that I could potentially be friends with or date. But in the end, I realized that me taking this next step was what mattered the most. There will be plenty of time to meet others in the future, what this event did for me was make me more comfortable with myself and change my perception on my homosexuality, which had been steadily evolving over the past year, since I came out.
I felt decked out, too, at the Parade. I was wearing a rainbow-colored band on my wrist, my shirt that said, “Some people are gay, get over it,” and my hat that said, “Pride.” It really was nice for my self-esteem. Even though I’d been more open since coming out of the closet, I didn’t necessarily wear the colors, so to speak.
We joked later that it was a never-ending parade. Because it was way late, and yet, there were still an endless number of floats coming our way. So, we headed out just a little early. But I was content. I felt happy. It was nice to be in a safe space to acknowledge what I feel and who I am. Living loud is nice when you have the appropriate venue to do that.
After the Parade, Preston and I went to Publik, and I ordered toast with hummus and vegetables. We went in, and I was happy at the reception of the server there, who’d asked if we just came from Pride, seeing me decked out in my clothes. Which we had, of course, and this visibility, I’m telling you, really does a lot for a person’s psyche, especially when there was repression for such a long time.
When we finished, we walked to the Tower and got a movie, The City of Lost Children. As we were walking there, a guy stopped us, looking for a lighter. I remember telling them, we’d just come from Pride, and they pointed out my shirt. I told them that I like it because it’s short and to the point. They were like, “Yeah, totally, whatever,” basically saying it really isn’t that important, even though people usually freak out about it. The gays are sinful and going to Hell!
So, all in all, it was a remarkable experience. But one thing was still weighing on me. I had basically spent all of this time being out, proud, and open, but I was still sexually frustrated. Post Pride Coitus, you know, having sex in my head by writing an essay: ha! But honestly, I can’t deny my sexual frustration, my desire. I haven’t really met anyone I am really compatible with yet (except for unsatisfying flings), so I often have to resort to having sex in my head. Someone compatible is out there, but for now, I have to find other ways of satisfying myself.
Often, Preston and I would joke about how I had a crush on him, but can’t have sex with him because he’s literally as straight as it gets. Too straight for me, really. We joke about being single, and how it’s a lonely experience. So Post Pride Coitus may not actually be happening, in other words.
But really what this does is reflect my changing attitudes on sex. I see it as something that can really make a difference in a person’s life, can empower a person in a deep and fundamental way. Sexual frustration is sometimes a part of that. But really, loving who you love, and having your desires satiated: It’s huge, I would say. For a long time, I had given too much credit to abstinence, thinking that was the only way to go. I didn’t realize how much I longed for sex in the meantime. You can imagine, it was a long eight years.
In that sense, the landscape is a mess. Hooking up sometimes is stigmatized, casual sex stigmatized. Not so much in the gay community, though, and I think that’s one thing I latched onto. I don’t know yet what this means for me personally, but I know that I’m more comfortable with the idea (sex, that is). As one of my friends once told me, sex is powerful. In other words, it’s not something to think about lightly, and it’s not something to avoid thinking about. I get frustrated when people don’t talk about what they actually think. That’s why I joke with my friend Preston about having a crush on him, because I need to get it out, and it helps me cope more with my limitations and thoughts. I’m much more comfortable with my sexuality, because I think it’s an important part of how a person ends up being who they are. I have to actively resist some of my thoughts otherwise, which have been indoctrinated since birth. It would be foolish to say sex isn’t liberating. There’s a reason why there are strains of counterculturalism that go against the grain of our more conservative tendencies in our society.
In other words, we need more honest conversations about these things. At least so we know where we are at. People aren’t as bad as other people make them out to be. We can demonize people, groups of people, because we don’t understand them. But, it isn’t worth it. Especially because there is so much that makes us special.
Indeed, that’s something I’ve thought about recently, how much I appreciate the diversity of thought that exists in society, and even among the LGBT community itself. Diversity of thought is what makes things interesting. Diversity of thought is important to the flourishing of society. If we all thought the same, society would never advance or progress. This is because diversity of thought brings innovation. Differing ideas and ideologies clash and form culture, and when we’re in a good place, good things come from it. We need to be able to disagree on certain things.
And really, that’s one of the crazy things about this new mindset that I have, about pretty much everything. I think that it’s okay that I don’t possess the stereotypes I need to function, that my life goes in just a little bit of a different direction. It needs to, because it brings me to unpredictable but fun places. It keeps life interesting. Honestly, that’s why I really appreciate diversity of thought and lifestyles: life stays interesting and fun. It’s why I still appreciate the Christian worldview, even though they oppose me. It’s why I can handle protestors, not because I agree (I don’t agree at all), but because I realize that the world is a complex place, and you have to allow many things to happen in life, allowing opposites to find a way to coexist. We shouldn’t stifle our development as a species and society. Because I realize that I’m not perfect, my ideas and ideologies are not always right. But being able to appreciate that, I’ve learned, has brought me to a place where I can accept myself more fully.
So, there’s my piece, Post Pride Coitus. I still dream about getting laid, of course, but you know, everything in time. I don’t know where my life is headed, but taking part in Pride this year really changed my perception on a lot of things. I’m proud to be who I am, and I will live loud. People are good, and they have a lot to offer, and we need to be patient with them. And we need to be patient with ourselves. Really, I’m proud to be gay, because it’s given me a unique perspective, on top of my mental illness. I just love the sensitivity that I see in the homosexual culture. I find it inspiring.
So really, you know, just live. Be proud. That message is true for anyone.