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I’m a 24-year-old Black gay man living in America with the dreams of being a recognized writer. There’s a lot going on there.
But as vocal as many of those subsections are (who hasn’t heard of loud and proud black men, gay men, Americans, and writers?), I’ve found myself being silent. Scared of sharing my voice. My light.
So this Pride season, I find myself questioning what does it mean to be vocal, to be expressive, to be proud? And how do I get some?
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Loud & Proud (And Me)
Growing up, I idolized gay culture.
In my supple teens, I thirsted for gay content. I watched tv shows like Queer as Folk and movies like Rent, Were the World Mine, Another Gay Movie, and the Eating Out series.
But most of those programs promoted this hyper-sexualized section of gay life. One that I tried to mirror and later found wasn’t good for me. (Doesn’t help that most of it was focused on and catered for white gay men).
But I can’t fault it. Gay programming was just beginning to flourish. So, it often focused on depicting gay life and sex like never before. But once I dropped that gay hookup mindset, I started to wonder, “What does that make me?”
It doesn’t help that I also grew up as a middle child to a single mother (who later remarried). Somewhere along the line, I taught myself to be quiet. To be hidden. To not seek attention. And honestly, I’m still fighting that mentality to this day.
So, when I see LGBTQ people living life vibrantly, like on my recent trip to Guadalajara Pride, I can’t help but feel jealous. I get this FOMO (fear of missing out) and worry that I’m not shining as much as I should or could. But how do I start?
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The honest answer is to, “Just do it.” As if screaming at myself like the impassioned (and slightly deranged) former Disney star Shia LaBeouf will be convincing enough to fight all my fears. But the truth of those three simple words don’t go away simply because I’m too afraid to listen to them.
As the wonderful Marianne Williamson once wrote:
And honey, I am afraid!
But here’s the thing, everything important in life takes effort. It takes work and commitment. It goes back to those middle school science classes where every formula came down to the simple solution of needing to put energy into any type of work. (Keep in mind, I was terrible at science and math).
So yes, being more vocal and admitting that I want to be seen or heard is scary. It will take work. But, so does everything else, so I might as well try here too. The key is to simply try and to not stop.
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Part of my fear is the journey. I like to know where I’m going. Have a plan. Even if, it’s a loose one. But it’s time to let that go .
Nobody knows where they’re going. They may know where they’d like to go, but life is messy, complicated, and uncertain. Even if I want to say, “I’m confident, proud, and vocal today!” it may actually take a while to get there. And that’s ok.
The thing about Pride and self-expression is that you just have to commit to yourself. Commit to loving yourself and loving everything you do in the moment you’re living right now. Pride is saying, “Hey, look at me,” and not shying away from the eyes of strangers.
As the enigmatic Billy Porter says in the latest trailer for the second season in the proud, loud, and vibrant show Pose, “Now once you understand what your power is, you have to figure out how to make it work for you, honey!”
The keys to being vocal and being proud are self-understanding, self-acceptance, and comittment. Once you’ve started down the path to those goals, you’ll start flying.
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Style, Voice, Pride
I’m not vocal enough. Not triumphantly me. But I’m trying to figure out how to be that. How to get there. I’m moving on from fear and moving onto discovering and loving me. And you bet I’ll start being more vocal about it.
In a world where there is so much outward stress and detest to being your true and authentic self, that may be the bravest thing of all.
And to me, that’s the meaning of Pride.