A year ago I told my pastor I wouldn’t march in Pride because it just wasn’t me. I really meant this: I wanted my life as a gay man to serve as a testament of normalcy; I wanted to avoid Pride as a sort of silent protest against the spectacle that (I perceived) contradicted my traditional values.
I was wrong, not just for my perception of the festivities but for designating anything as “normal.” So I’m not into leather, furries, piercings, or even thongs; I don’t fraternize exclusively with gay men; and I do visualize a future home with kids, a pug, and a husband, with all of the carpooling, coupon-cutting, Saturday-morning-pancake-baking responsibilities that life entails. I’m still not normal, because no one truly is, and moreover I wouldn’t be any more palatable to people like Mike Huckabee if I wore an apron and drove my family to church every week.
In the last year my beliefs have changed. I don’t believe progress will come through conformity. I believe when confronting evil, the best we can do sometimes is pursue authenticity to ourselves and grace toward others. I’m an introvert, I shy away from exhibitionsim, and I haven’t liked parades in decades. I expected to hate Pride, even once I stopped judging it, but in the last year I’ve grown more confident in myself, which I discovered is really what Pride entails: being free as individuals, celebrating our individuality.
Of course, it means something different to a lot of people, but for what it’s worth, here’s a piece of my experience, written for the Huffington Post—and given the worst title I’ve written in years. (It was 1am. I was trying hopelessly to be literal.)
Somehow, “what do you like to do?” is an acceptable question for strangers to ask each other. I’m not combative, and rarely defensive, but I only ever hear it as a challenge. Prove to me you’re interesting. I can’t. Really, I can’t. Despite years of practice, I’ve yet to describe my life once without sounding like the dullest gay guy in the world.
I go to church. I read in cafés. I watch documentaries with my boyfriend. I don’t drink, so I survive parties by coaxing conversations out of strangers about their ambitions, divorces and the novels that inspired them as teenagers. Sure, I throw a folk concert or queer dance party in there every now and then, but nine nights out of 10 you’ll find me with a novel or a friend in deep conversation.
I think “lifestyle” is a ridiculous term, but technically everything I just described is mine. Technically too, it’s my gay lifestyle, something my family discusses when they talk about the ex-gay ministry they attend every week in Texas.