Despite identifying as LGBT since my teen years, yesterday was my first PRIDE event and I wanted to capture my thoughts and impressions while everything is still fresh in my mind because some really good, empowering things, came from the day.
Before I talk about the good there was an enlightening negative that was also affirming – yesterday was a bittersweet day, it was Lisa’s, my ex, birthday, and right up until the start of last month I was planning a surprise birthday party for her so there was an undertone for the day.
The story in short: I fell in love with a woman who told me she was trapped in an abusive marriage, that she was afraid for her life, and that she was trying to get herself together to get out. When her wife told her she was filing for divorce I allowed her to move in and we went from clandestine lovers to living together as a couple in a few hours. I found out that she lied to me and her wife, and there was more breaking up and getting back together than I can even keep track of, right up until she made a public production of going back to her wife and “committing herself to her marriage” what people didn’t know is that she was trying to keep me quietly on the side.
When I realized that she had made it seem like I’d been the one creating the marital issues, that I’d been the one pursuing her, and I’d been the cause of their breakup (not true). But, if people believed that I was going to be treated as if it were, and that would harm my goals to do community work, volunteerism, and activism both in Richmond and potentially in Houston.
That’s when I confronted her about how selfish she’d been, and how this relationship was altering my life in huge ways; I pulled her wife into a conversation of three, not out of jealousy but because I was done with the deceit. Lying is not how I operate and this relationship had put me into a place that was out of my comfort zone and I couldn’t do it anymore. After a day of discussion Lisa was forced to make a decision – her wife and I both believed she wanted to choose me, but in the end I knew she’d choose her wife (a roof over her head and a job were on the line).
Which brings me the negative, not one but two church groups, groups that “should” be there for me, “should” be helping and supporting the good work I’ve done, and hope to continue, saw my face and reacted as if the devil were walking. This relationship has impacted my ability to do good works – because who is going to take the words of a red headed burlesque performer over the words of ministry student with a sob story?
It was all I could do to not blurt out that the story isn’t over, that “I’m committed to my marriage” are not the final words. The final words sent through channels (because she knows I’ll share them with her wife if she contacts me before she’s moved out) are quite the opposite. And, I’m the one being shunned as some sort of a jezabel.
These moments, of being shunned and shamed, were thankfully short and didn’t so much hurt as just reaffirmed my decision to move to Houston and start over. It confirmed that my instincts about what was being said about me and how people would react were accurate, and trusting my instincts is something I need to be less afraid of so that’s a positive really.
Empowering Women Simply By Being Real
PRIDE to me has always seemed like the opportunity to embrace and celebrate ones whole self – an act of subversion and activism. I was volunteering at the event because I knew it would help me feel a sense of purpose and to be less anxious. I had chosen to wear a rhinestoned bra with jeans, I had done my eyes with rainbow eye shadow, and was really just being myself. I’d been there a few hours and a young woman came up to me and said thank you, that what I was wearing, how obviously comfortable I am in my skin, were empowering to her.
Another woman, older with a solid grey streak in her long hair, spent time and several conversations with me discussing how she wished she could do what I was doing. I reminded her that life is too short to put things off, and to go take that belly dance class she’s always wanted to take. So… there’s confirmation that just by being me and just by being out in the public eye doing me is enough to open conversation, empower, and inspire.
And, through other conversations I realized that out proud strong femme lesbian’s are really something we need more of so…I accept the message.
The Importance of #Bravely Bare
As I was walking along the booth’s a woman walking with her daughter called out to me, she stopped me to tell me how deeply the Bravely Bare show had touched her, how my daughter’s story had been so raw, and how often she’s thought about us, and the show since then. We talked about my daughter’s mental health journey this year, and the challenges she faces in life. And about my plans to produce Bravely Bare in Houston. She went off to find Sarah and speak with her, and I was so moved to know that this idea I had was still so powerful.
My first PRIDE was less about who I want to make love with, and so much more about self-acceptance and self-empowerment. What an incredible experience… thank you Richmond PRIDE for allowing me the opportunity for self-love and self-acceptance. And, please, if you’re reading this and you identify as LGBT and you’ve never been to a PRIDE event make plans and go, go with an open heart, and an open mind.