Guest Column: GayDays, Pride, and thoughts on being a June bride

By : Steven Yacovelli
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Steven Yacovelli

Steven Yacovelli

I remember my first GayDays: it was 1995 and I was a young gayling of 24 years old here in O-town. My BFF (at the time and still to this day), Bruce convinced me to go. I didn’t quite know what to expect: being newly out, this was one of my first “Pride” events and it was an incredible, powerful, moving, and affirming experience.

A sea of red shirts at the Magic Kingdom, boys in swimsuits at Typhoon Lagoon, and just a feeling of support coupled with a whole lot of fun. Being part of this was more than encouraging: it was the opportunity to not only see so many of my “people” being out and proud in one spot, but just as important was the opportunity to be seen by others outside of the community as an out gay man as well.

The next year I made my way to New York City for my first “big” Pride parade. Here I saw a cornucopia of humanity celebrate the LGBT community while dykes on bikes zoomed past the half naked boys on the Twilo float. I distinctly remember looking at the 2nd floor window above where I was watching the parade and seeing this 80 year old woman and her (assumed) husband dancing up and storm and trying desperately to catch any beads that came their way.

It was awesome, and just reinforced the proud feelings I had and that sense of community each June brought with it.

The world has changed in a relatively short 19-ish years since I went to these events. With the vast amount of information on the Interweb, positive depictions of the LGBT community in the media, the extensive news coverage on our fight for equality; we’re so much more “out” as a community in the collective world conscience then we were in the days of my first pride events.

I think of Steve’s Gay Pride like a fabulous empty cup that magically appeared when I finally identified as gay, and every Pride event, every TV show with a positive LGBT role model (once too few and far between), every magazine ad promoting that “nefarious” LGBT Agenda put a drop or two into that Pride Cup. Today, at 43, that cup has gotten pretty full, but it’s taken a while. By contrast, today’s gaylings have been exposed to so many more positive images of the LGBT community then I ever was at their comparative age, and this has helped to get their fabulous Gay Pride Cups quite a bit fuller far more quickly: and that’s a fantastic thing.

Now June not only means “LGBT Pride” but the possibility of wedding bells for an ever-increasing amount of us LGBT Americans. I personally—after 16 years of technically “dating” Richard—am getting married to my partner in a civil ceremony in San Francisco in a few weeks. The 24 year old Steve—awash in a sea of red shirts watching the 3 p.m. parade at the Magic Kingdom 19 years ago—would never have thought I’d have the opportunity to be proud in a whole different gay way in June at my own wedding. And maybe next year we’ll have a run on gay Weddings by Disney in Orlando come the first weekend in June.

So do we still need these Pride and GayDay events each June, and Gay Pride parades snaking down the Main Streets of so many cities, villages and town? Absol-flippin’-lutely.

Despite the top of mindedness that the LGBT community has today, there’s still a lot of hate, oppression, and misunderstanding in our own country. Globally, there are almost 80 countries where being LGBT is illegal (and in at least five it’s a crime punishable by death).

These Pride events help bring a sense of community, a sense of belonging to a group of people with a shared experience, and for many a sense of exposure that this somewhat “invisible minority” has to the world. Yes, we all have vastly different experiences finding our sense of self, identifying whom we are attracted to, our gender identity, our sense of individualism. But our collective celebration each June shows the rest of the world that we are individuals who are part of a larger group that are normal and wonderful citizens of this world.

We’re celebrating the challenges we’ve collectively overcome while advancing the conversation about how we should be viewed and treated in society. Have fun, but know you’re also representing all of us when you gather for that Pride celebration.

With that said, a few “do’s” and “don’ts” as we swing into our celebration month:

Don’t celebrate so much in your “pride” that you’re ashamed of your actions the next day. Moderate your drinking, know your limits if you are indulging in “other substances,” and, like kindergarten fields trips, know where your “pride buddy” is at all times.

Don’t show body parts in public that could put you in jail, or make your grandmother blush. Yes be proud of your sexuality but know where and when. The showers at RipTide/BeachBall aren’t the best place to “show your pride.”

Don’t over text / Tweet / FB post while attending the events. ENGAGE with your LGBT and ally brothers and sisters in RT (“real time”). Yes, post a few pics of your fun experiences but then put your phone down, lift your head up and go live those experiences.

Do show how proud you are to be a part of the LGBT community. There are a lot of us around the world who may not be able to publically share our pride as much as we can in the U.S.

Do be open to all facets of our community. Just because you aren’t into leather daddies, for example, don’t judge or demean those who are. We use a rainbow flag as a symbol for a reason: learn to accept those who are different—in our community and beyond.

Do respect that for many younger folks this is one of their first Pride celebrations; this is the foundation for their future pride, let them have fun. For those younger, realize that you wouldn’t be celebrating Pride if not for the efforts of the “more chronologically experienced LGBTs.” Respect your LGBT elders: they’ve paved the way for you.

Enjoy yourselves this GayDays weekend and this Pride month, be safe, and be proud of how far we’ve come, and hopeful for how far we still need to go.

 

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