Monday, June 26, 2017

Confidence: A Three Year Pride Journey

Yesterday was my third year attending/participating in Seattle Pridefest. At the close of the day I took some time to reflect on my journey.

In 2015 I was still very much a member of the LDS church. I was very quietly and cautiously out, and still terrified of doing things on my own. My confidence was growing during this time, but was still very new to me, and very small.

My entire first pride event was designed to stay close to the Mormons at Pride, and as much as possible with at least one person I knew.

I started the day heading off to Seattle by myself to go to an affirmation associated breakfast party where I knew absolutely no one. I was so very nervous that morning, but I was determined to go.

It felt like such a major thing going that year. Something I could get in trouble religiously for possibly, but somewhere I had to be. 

As I walked through a still quiet and mostly asleep seattle that morning I felt hyper vigilant, this path I walk nearly daily was some how surprisingly new territory.

I arrived at the door to the appartment where breakfast was being held at the exact same time as another group of people. I was relieved to not have to walk in alone, and eventually these people became my friends, along with many at the party, including a drag queen from the same town/ward in Ohio as one of my mission companions.

Soon I was marching with Mormons Building Bridges and Affirmation. And then I met some Mormon friends at the spaceneedle, and went to an LGBT Mormon picnic.

I made a lot of really important friends that year, and that gave me more courage to keep doing new things. That year Pride felt like one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. And marching with my Mormon clan felt hopeful, peaceful, and like there was a way forward for us in peace. We hugged so many strangers that year, that had been harmed by religion and our presence felt healing for us, and for many of them.

Around that time, I think just a few weeks after, but I'm not really sure the SCOUTUS rulling on same sex marriage came down and everything at church began to intensify and irreconsilibly  change. Soon the policy came out, and I realized that a harmonious balance between these two parts of my life, was not possible.

                          Pride 2016
By the time 2016 came around I was in a very committed relationship with a woman I had started dating July the previous year. Soon we would be engaged. The policy had come out, so at this point, it just didn't feel right to join in marching with any Mormon associated groups. 

I did join Affirmation/Mormons Building Bridges for their hugging booth at Capitol Hill Pride on Saturday, before the main event Sunday.  It was great to see my friends again, and always great to hug strangers (unless they are sweaty).

Sunday I went with friends and met up with my girlfriend and her daughter. I felt tense and anxious because the Pulse shooting had just happened and whatever sense of safety I had felt, being in Seattle, was shattered. It was hot. We had a 9 year old who handles heat, crowds, and noise probably even worse than I do. We got her some ear plugs and found a spot to watch the parade. I don't think we watched very long. I don't like crowds, noise or watching parades, and the 9 year old felt the same, so we headed off to city center to look at the booths.

It felt amazing to be there with someone. It also felt much safer to be away from the parade route and Christian protesters with megaphones  telling us we were all going to Hell.  In the safety net of the area around the space needle, I relaxed and enjoyed holding my girlfriends hand in public and just being a little family together. That year, I didn't have to do anything alone.  But we did end the day early, because kids get tired and Pride is crowded and noisy.

                               Pride 2017

I am currently very single. I went on a date Saturday night, to a soccer game. The soccer game was great, the date was not. I intentionally left my sunday with no plan what so ever. I would wake up and head to Seattle when I felt like it. I could march, or I could walk with friends. But I have come to be comfortable with Seattle's LGBT community, so I didn't need anyone to hold my hand through it, literally or figuratively.

I have become a person that challenges myself daily, to be authentic, and to do things that scare me. All the dumb things that shouldn't scare me, like dress according to my own style, or meet new people.

I didn't think I would be out of my house until 10 this year. With a game late the night before, I thought I would sleep in and move slow. It was too hot for sleep. I was up by 7, and on my way to Seattle by 9:45. I made a very last minute decision to march instead of sitting in the crowd watching. If you march, your feet get tired, but you get a lot more personal space.

I met a coworker who was also marching, and we found porta potties and my small bi+ community group after getting a hug from Doppler, the Storm (WNBA) mascot.  It was 10 am and it was already hot, so I felt a little bad for the person in the Doppler suit. The humane society had decided it was too hot to have animals on their float.

I took a quick picture with my friend by some Daleks, and then met  my  Bi  marching group. Instantly and seamlessly I was discussing doctor who with one of the men, who claimed to personally know Tom Baker.  Look at me and my bad self, talking to strangers ;) a lot had changed in two years. I wasn't even nervous.

I had a moment to adjust to the completely naked, except the flag she wore as a cape, that was standing next to me. It was still a slight shock to my system, but only for a second. Then it was completely fine and unremarkable.

Soon I was spotted by a guy I had met the night before at the Reign game. He was excited about my jersey, which made me really happy, because I was in a group of non soccer people and no one got what I was wearing. We also had a very bonding conversation about bisexuality, and he had to run off. But that was definitely  a highlight of my day.

The next highlight was after we had been marching for a while, and suddenly a stranger ran out of the crowd toward me and nearly tackled me into a hug. And then I realized it was my best friend and I was very happy.

I made some new friends in my marching group. I told one of them that I had trained for this walk all year, but not intentionally, and that next year I would be adding in shoulder presses, because my shoulders were starting to ache from carrying a heavy sign. It was a bit windy at times, that made it heavier.

I enjoyed all the high fives, and hugs from strangers. It was like some how my brain just turned off the germaphobia, and embraced the spirit of the day. Surprisingly no one was super sweaty  yet, so that helped.

After the parade I wondered around for a bit. On two seperate occasions ladies turned from the opposite direction and ran to talk to me about my awesome Krashyln jersey.

I remarked briefly how I am now completely unphased by the fire and he'll street preacher's, except to feel pained for those they are still heaping pain on. Thank you EMDR therapy.

And then I was exhausted so I walked to the ferry, reflection on the complete lack of fear and anxiety I had felt for the day. I enjoyed the freedom of wondering around on my own, but I missed having a hand to hold.

Mostly, I was just impressed at the person I am becoming. For a brief moment I had a vulnerability hangover, and the negativity in my mind got way out of control, but reflection on my previous years made  me see just how far I had come, and made me determined to keep challenging myself to not stay in my comfort zone.

I have a mild sunburn, dispite all my sunscreen application efforts, but again It was too hot this morning, so dispite slightly sore legs, I didn't even consider sleeping in today.

Wednesday, I'm excited to push yet another comfort zone, as I take  my most fun, loud, not shy friends to a Reign game and pre party, and we sit in the supporters section. It should be a blast.


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