When I was in my early twenties, I decided I needed to make a change, make some new friends, and maybe do some good. I joined the Pride Committee. Back then, it was a group of people who volunteered their time and energies to create a really kick-ass festival. We also did things like challenge government stereotypes: not many people remember this, but an NDP provincial government under then premier Roy Romanow refused to declare Pride week. We actually had to take the provincial government to the human rights tribunal to get a declaration. Co-incidentaly, many people don’t realize it was actually the government of Grand Devine, a *gasp* dare I say conservative government, that initially made inroads into LGBT equality in the labour force in…wait for it… the 1980’s. I was really into it not only because it felt like politically I was working for change, or that I was actively working to organize events and help put together the first ‘legal’ parade in Regina, but because I was meeting all kinds of people, making all kinds of friends, and floating on a high of what I was able to accomplish with the help of those friends. Which makes it sound like I did it all, when in fact i was actually just a minuscule part of a bigger team that did it without any organizing principle except getting the job done (and if we turned a small profit we could turn back into the next festival the following year, coolio).
After three years of mc-ing the flag raising, marching in the parades, getting tables and chairs set up for the dance at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, talking to reporters, I (and I suspect everyone else on Pride) burnt out. Without missing a step, the local group at the GLCR picked up the gauntlet and continued the tradition. In that aspect, it’s a real show of what community is about when the celebration is important enough to keep it going without any need to ask.
So I find myself, 20 years later, thinking now. Having watched event announcements for the week of festivities, realizing I can’t make half of them because of work, and not being able to make the other half because I just can’t drag myself out of the house that I’m living in…(taking care of this dog is another blog post in itself)…I find myself wondering why it is I don’t really have a sense of pride in being gay anymore. I fired off an e-mail to the current committee saying that I would love to volunteer. I thought to myself, all you need to do is get involved again and you’ll be meeting people, making friends, and gaining back some of that community spirit that you seem to have lost! Except after the volunteer co-ordinater got ahold of me to ask me what t-shirt size I took, I found myself wanting to not volunteer anymore. Lucky for me, I never heard back from anyone. I guess they didn’t really need volunteers after all.
But at the heart of this post isn’t anything I did before, or anything I’m seeing now: why is it, when I look at myself in my 43 year old body, do I not feel the sense of pride in being gay that I once did?
When the committee I belonged to dissolved, I slowly drifted away from anything community related. I stopped going to the bar after a disastrous relationship with a disastrous drag queen (again, like the dog, another post all together!), stopped hanging out with my friends in the community in Saskatoon. I went to Divas so much people thought I lived in Saskatoon! That not going back to Saskatoon had more to do with not wanting to run away from my problems here in Regina than anything else, and I think that might be the real key as to why I don’t feel pride anymore. When I stopped running away to Saskatoon and forced myself to start looking at the problems in my life that were making me unhappy, the need to run away disappeared. The friends I had there for the most part never really stayed in touch, which only emphasized that the decision I’d made was probably for the best. I miss Belinda especially, and there isn’t a day that goes by I wish I could reconnect with her.
I’m not ashamed of who I am. But what I do feel is a deep sense of gratitude to have been given this gift, and it is a gift, even though some days I feel so very alone. One day in my past, I’m not sure exactly when or exactly how, being gay stopped being what I was and became an integral part of who I am, a part of myself that I am humbled to have. Its not something I feel the need to flaunt anymore as much as treasure and honour by making good choices for myself.
Last night when I thought through how to write this post, I was going to say things like that festival now isn’t the same as the festival then, or that the energy now isn’t the same as the energy then. Although that might be true in some aspects that have no real bearing on the heart and soul of the festival, Pride is basically the same. I’m the one that has changed. The way I look at myself has changed. The sense of loneliness that I talk about comes not from not being able to have friends, or to want to socialize, or to date. It comes from the realization that the vast majority of people that I used to be able to relate to are no longer people I can relate to. I don’t belong to the community in the same sense that I did before. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, or because my outlook has changed. My sense of grief doesn’t come from being alone as much as it does in realizing that even if I wanted to come back into a place of being active in the community in the way I did before, I can’t. Firstly because there are younger fresher faces that are doing a fine job without my help, and secondly because you can’t put a square peg into a round hole.
I’m very grateful to have participated in an organization that helped in breaking down the shame that so many of us have had to deal with. When I think back, I realize I was actually part of a very small bit of our city’s history. That’s pretty cool! Being proud means being able to take joy from one’s accomplishments, for the hard work one has put into a life. Yes, coming out of the closet is an incredibly difficult journey for many, and people very likely still need to be told, even in 2015, that it’s ok to be gay. But it’s just one book on the shelf, and there are so many of those books that get overlooked because the rainbow book is so bright.
I’m proud of my accomplishments. My sexuality isn’t an accomplishment. It’s a component of the individual who’s written two novels, worked for 15 years at the same job, gone back to school after 20 years and landed high grades in some of the most challenging classes I (and others) have ever taken, grown an continue to develop a cottage garden, and make a really REALLY good cup of tea an honey.