But why? ‘Why do you wear those every day, everywhere?’ That is the question I get a lot. My answer, ‘Why not?’ It’s a simple answer to a simple question. Yet, so many people look with disgust when I respond or give me a look of disappointment or confusion. Still, I rarely leave the house without something Pride on me.
I don’t think about the dirty looks, the disappointing stares, or the whispers I get being out and about. Sometimes I’ll think to myself, ‘Wow I must have on so much rainbow stuff,’ and laugh. I’m never worried, nor do I feel unsafe. Though maybe I am a little nervous at times if I’m being honest. I’m sure people assume I’m gay or an ally. Some ignore me. They stare at the ground as I talk to them or square in my face as to not drop their sight to a pin or my bracelet. Some are even bold enough to ask, ‘What’s with all the rainbow stuff?’ Or there might be the person who says, ‘Why do you always have to be in our face about it?’
I love this question.
My answer, ‘Oh about equality for all, equal rights for people no matter their race, religion, age, sexual identity, or sexual preference? Oh that? Yeah, that’ll be in your face until it happens.’
I also love it when we’re sitting at the bar, and someone makes a queer joke, or something comes up on the TV that prompts a negative comment. I slowly push up my sleeves, so all my bracelets are visible or loudly clear my throat as I sit there in a Pride t-shirt. I sit there and smile as everyone gets quiet. Yep, I’m here, time to acknowledge the rainbows!
Is that the reason ‘why’ I wear them? To push the equality agenda? Making people think about it even if they don’t want to? Trying to get a message across without saying anything?
Most of my friends assume it’s because I love the holidays. I love to decorate inside and outside my house. Themed décor for every occasion. But is Pride a season? A holiday? (It’s a season that lingers, I guess, as long as it’s chilly enough for my jacket with all the Pride pins and buttons.) Then again, maybe they think it’s laundry day and I’m wearing yet another love/Pride/rainbow shirt because it’s all I have clean.
Some know it took me a long time to find my own voice, to advocate for myself and to be proud of being me. Being unwed and pregnant right out of high school in the early 90’s was no piece of cake. The shameful looks, the judgement, the constant sentiment that ‘your life is over’ – that ‘you’ll be nothing’. It takes a toll. Especially with little support. I had to stand up for me when no one else would. Now I stand up for others, giving that support I wish I had.
My family assumes it’s because I am an ally. I have several discussions on speaking up for others, using your privilege to help those who may not have a voice or a choice. I weed through the disinformation on websites, careful to not repost or say what may not be fact or truth. I spend time looking at so many different blogs, websites and forums to understand everyone’s perspectives, not just those that align with my own views. Taking in all sides of the conversation before forming my opinion, voicing my thoughts, and opening a discussion is important. So is cautiously waiting for the right time to drop a fact or correct some disinformation that was just said. Trying to communicate to my family on the power of voting for inclusive rights, supporting LGBTQ+ businesses and where to donate to help the queer community can be a challenge, but I keep trying.
Maybe that’s it? Maybe my reason for my accessory choices is because deep down I want to have deep conversation about how the community needs to be heard; how real change in law needs to happen now.
Of course, the neighbors think it’s part of my job or maybe a hobby. I’m always hauling rainbow something with me as we wave from the driveway in the morning. Glitter is a natural element at my house; it’s everywhere. I’m always crafting or coloring, sorting stickers, or hot gluing something when they stop over. A neighbor will walk by my house and then ask another neighbor about the Pride flags at my house. Oh that? She runs the Pride Parade at her work. Another will say she likes décor, so it’s just another reason for her to put out decorations, I guess. Someone once asked me if I was a teacher since I usually have inspirational signs or flags in the yard. Is that why I do it? I show my Pride because it’s cool? Because Pride is fun and colorful?
At work, well, they know all these things about me. I’m loud, I’m an advocate, and I like to educate others about the community and promote awareness. Plus, I’ll decorate anything, anywhere for any occasion, just ask me! I am the keeper of the swag. The most common question I get when wearing my Pride swag: ‘Is there an event today?’ Or, ‘You’re dressed like this because there’s a ZEAL event, right?’ Well, sometimes those things are true; other times it’s just a Tuesday. I feel comfortable at work. I can express myself and be proud with my t-shirts, my bracelets, my Pride flags at my desk while doing my job. I work with ZEAL (Zebra Equality Alliance) to help uplift the community, for others to feel comfortable being themselves at work and educating those who are curious. To me the office is easy, it’s the best place to show my pride. (Though I know that’s not the case for everyone. I’m fortunate. Is that the reason I wear my Pride swag every day, everywhere? To help advocate for changes that would allow everyone to feel comfortable being themselves wherever they work?)
That’s certainly part of it. However, when I honestly ask myself, ‘Why do I show my Pride?’ I realize all the reasons I’ve mentioned and others have assumed are true. I am an advocate, I voice my opinion for others, I try and make change through discussions, fundraising, donations, voting, and I do love swag.
But the real reason I show my Pride is to show you I’m here, for you. I see you. I understand you. Be you!
Despite all that is going on today, I am still here for you. You, my queer friend, you matter! It’s for the young cashier with a warm smile who says, ‘I like your bracelet.’ It’s for the hostess seating me at a table that smiles and mouths, ‘Thank you,’ while looking at my ‘You’re Safe with Me’ pin. It’s the woman who rolls up her sleeve to show her Pride tattoo and nods with a smile. It’s for anyone who may be discouraged or holding back their true self.