Pride, Community, and Me

Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling a lot of pride lately.  I have so many compliments on my clothing, my makeup, and my courage, I am a little overwhelmed.  Today marks 6 months since I went full-time, and that time has flown by in my mind.  However, in reflection, I have come a long way in the last 6 months, especially when it comes to feeling a part of the community.

When I went full-time in January, I was nervous about how I would be perceived in the world.  How much people would accept my transition?  How the public I interact with on a daily basis treat me?  How would my kids adapt?  At the time, it was all very personal.  HB2 and other bathroom bills were the hot topic, and I did have to pay attention to transgender issues in the news, but honestly, I had to look out for myself.  I needed to experience firsthand how my day-to-day world would change.  Except for a few incidents, I have been showered with support, and even my living situation with my wife has vastly improved.

A friend of mine told me that she never dates anyone in the first year of transition mainly because people in the first year of transition go through all sorts of changes, wildness, and moodiness while that person figures things out, which makes it hard to date those people. While I can see that possibility, it is a blanket statement, and I have found that I have not really fit that mold.  I have been so reasoned and methodical in every transition decision that the last 6 months have not been full of turmoil.  I have felt great, and it is the other parts of my life (like work) that can bring me down.  Because of this relative calmness in my life, and the reduction of fighting in my house, I have been able to begin focusing on my presence in the transgender community at large.

This June, I attended my first Pride celebration.  Last year, I was on the fence about going, but my head was a much different place.  The Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality had just come down, marking it a significant year… but I did not go.  I found it more important to figure myself out than to celebrate a notion of pride that I could not really feel, for I felt I was still too much of a noob to really walk in the community.  I later regretted not going, which meant I was not missing out this year.

On Friday night of Pride weekend, I attended SF Trans March.  I went with a friend of mine, who herself just came out to the world.  I received great information from group tabling (including some things about insurance coverage), listened to politicians get booed off the stage, met up with friends, and experience my community.  I never felt out of place.  I was welcomed by both friends and strangers.  I was not questioned.  I did not feel I needed to fit in or act a certain way.  I was there because I belonged.  And then… the march began.  For an hour and a half, my friend and I marched around 2 miles through San Francisco.  All along the route, supporters of trans rights cheered in support.  Within our community, there were activist chants, free hugs, multicultural contingents, and those protesting police treatment against transgender people.  The struggle of the trans community could be seen and felt in real terms, not just media reports and stories.  These were real trans people on the streets, telling their stories, fighting for equality and visibility, and I was one of them.  I was proud to be walking with my community.  I was proud.

Two days later on Sunday, I returned to San Francisco for the  parade and big celebration at Civic Center.  In a complete coincidence, I met up with a former co-worker on the BART platform, who himself had just come out as gay to the world this year.  He was on his way to Pride for the first time and was meeting up with friends in the City.  And, while all of that waiting around meant I effectively missed all of the parade, it was another opportunity to branch out and meet new people.  So, a lesbian couple, my gay friend, and my trans self spent the day together at the celebration.  And just like it was supposed to be, it was nothing.  While the vibe was entirely different from the activist & protest nature of Trans March, I was a member of a larger community supporting each other, and again, it was my community.  I felt loved & included, and I felt wonderful.  The four of us eventually headed down Market and walked to the Castro District, where we got a drink at a gay bar (another new experience for me) and dinner.

I ended up going home by myself so I could spend a little more time in the Castro.  I stopped at the standing memorial that honors victims of violence against LGBT people, which stood much larger in the wake of the recent attacks at Pulse in Orlando.  I stopped to reflect that while the weekend was largely about celebrating LGBT pride, one needed to also acknowledge the harsh reality of the world we live in.  The Orlando victims need to be honored, and as a member of the community I am so proud to be a part of, it my obligation to acknowledge the challenges and hate that the community faces, and to offset that with expressions of love and warmth.  We are a community that beats with one pulse.  We are strong and united.  We includes me.

The last image I have of the City was looking up at the massive rainbow flag that flies above the Castro each and every day as I walked down into the MUNI Metro station to begin my trip home.  As the iconic symbol proudly and majestically waved in the wind, my heart was once again reminded of the pride the weekend was all about.  This is my community.  These are my people.  I was reminded of the friends in my life and the new friends & strangers I met over the weekend.  Such a friendly bunch of people.  No judgments.  Full acceptance. Welcoming.  Peace.  Equality.  Love.  Pride.

This was an important weekend for me.  I am so happy I went to both Trans March and the big event, as well as to dinner and a few drinks with people I both knew and were new to me.  I am thankful that my wife let me spend the better part of two weekend days in the City to live these experiences.  As a result, I have a better sense of the communities I am a part of as a transgender individual, and I now have a better idea of why I really am proud to be LGBT.

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