This past weekend was Pride weekend here in Portland, Maine. In the past, I haven’t traditionally taken part in many of the Pride celebrations around town. I had never before been to the parade, and I’d only once gone to the festival, and then only for a couple hours. I’ve always known that I belong at Pride, but along with that knowledge there’s come a significant portion of insecurity: I didn’t know if other people felt that I belonged there.
Traditionally, I’ve felt more connected to the concept of Pride than to the event itself, and while I felt a little sorry to be missing out, at the same time, I doubted how much I was really missing out on. This feeling kept me away from Pride entirely last year, and it was going to do the same this year. My partner and I discussed it briefly, as we do every year, and – like most years – we decided that we didn’t particularly care to go. We changed our minds because a friend was going to be dancing in the parade, and then another was going to be marching, and other people we know and love were going to be there too.
Part of me feels inclined to detail what we did at Pride – arriving to the parade early, eating a little pocket-like sour cherry hand pie while waiting in the sun, the long strangeness of the parade itself, a lunch of ramen and a brief meeting of friends at the festival, and finally marching back through town to go see Rocketman at the local movie theater. But the lasting impact of the day comes less from what I did than from how I felt. Not because it was necessarily extraordinary, but because of how ordinary it felt, and the extraordinariness of that.
Because the thing is, Pride mostly felt normal. Sure, the city was busy, and neither myself nor my partner dressed the way we do most days. Certainly we got to see many more of our friends all at once than we typically do. But didn’t feel strange or weighted down with too much pressure. It felt just like being at a party – a huge, sunny, rainbow party. Beyond the extra glee of beaming a cheery “Happy Pride!” and outside the excessive number of people lining the streets, it could have been any event we might attend with the people in our lives.
When I think back to the day now, I think about getting to spend the afternoon in the sunshine with my wonderful partner, cheering for friends in the parade and catching up with our friends in the park and sharing with our friends who couldn’t be there that day. There was none of that isolating feeling from before, of wondering whether or not other people felt that I belonged there. All my friends were there, either in actuality or in spirit, so how could I not? There was no doubt or fear, not for the day. There was only joy and support and love and pride, and a sense of community that was so real and strong that I know I’ll be able to carry it with me long after the month of Pride has passed.