Yesterday was World Pride Day–the conclusion to Pride Month–and thus it is apt to reflect on my experience with Pride over the last five years.
I have only been to a Pride event once, and that was during the summer of 2015, which was also the year I had come out to my family. The months preceding June 2015 were extremely difficult in my house…I had lied to my parents to even go to Pride. I had told them I was going to the city with friends, which was partially true. I was actually going to experience the parade in the city with my secret girlfriend.
I had packed a bag with the clothes I was going to change into on the train: rainbow pride earrings, a rainbow pride industrial bar, and a t-shirt I had customized with glitter glue and scissors. That plain t-shirt had transformed into a frilly crop-top with sparkly letters that read “I love [insert my ex-girlfriend’s name].” My ex had made a similar shirt, minus the glitter glue and fondness for scissors. We were very festive.
On the train, I rode a few stops alone before my ex and her friends boarded. When we got to the city, everyone and everything was rainbow. I had never experienced anything like it before. It was amazing to be around so many queer people, to feel validated, and to be supported.
My ex, her friends, and I watched the parade and I took lots of pictures, which I no longer have. I did, however, purchase a pride flag that I have to this day.
After the parade, I met up with a friend I had met at a summer pre-college camp. I remember that she had just gotten her nose ring. Anyway, we all went to multiple sex stores, and that is when I bought my first vibrator, which I also no longer have. (I have gone back to that specific sex store though and purchased a new one. In my opinion, that store has the best variety of non-penis-shaped goods in the entire city.)
Before boarding the train back home alone, I had removed my pride gear and tucked it back into my bag. My dad had picked me up at the train station and didn’t ask any questions, and so I had thought I was safe from interrogation. That was only true for a few hours.
The next morning, my mom had suddenly become skeptical of my whereabouts. She questioned what I had done in the city, who I had been with, and why I had been alone on the train. She blatantly asked me if I went to Pride, and I had responded with a resounding “no.”
And that was the end of that.
Fast forward to 2019… many of my friends went to Pride and invited me along, but I refrained. Part of my reluctance to attend any Pride event was a fear of large crowds, not wanting to cancel my Sunday Yin Yoga class (which I brought to my local community center and I’m super proud of it), and a fear of telling my parents that I was going.
Is that weird? I’m twenty-three and I’m afraid to tell my parents what I want to do, particularly if it involves my queerness. This is despite the fact that I had come out to them twice and integrated my recent ex into my familial life as much as possible.
I am unsure why I continue to have this fear that drives my preference to avoid queer topics. For years after I came out the first time, I blamed this tendency on them.
I had felt like they rejected me when I came out, which is why I had continuously lied to them. It had seemed like we were at war with each other for months, and I never forgave them. I didn’t feel like I could trust them.
It’s why even after my ex and I broke up, after years had passed, I still lied to them about where I was going and who I was hanging out with. I would answer questions they had about my personal life as vaguely as possible so they wouldn’t know that much about me. I would answer their questions snippily as well, which would cause conflicts about my bad attitude.
So much has changed between us though. Thus, my fear of talking about Pride and sexuality with them seems to stem primarily from residual pain. I have to constantly remind myself that they’re not going to yell at me or interrogate me about this stuff anymore. I’m no longer an eighteen-year-old in high school. I graduated from college, I work a full-time job and teach yoga on the side, and I’ve been a fucking adult for a few years now. I make my own choices. I don’t know why I don’t always find this rationale convincing.
Yesterday, however, my mom shared a sweet moment with me that reminded me of how things have improved between us.
I was sitting on my bed, wearing the Pride shirt my ex had gotten me, and planning my Yin Yoga class with the Pride Parade on in the background. My mom knocked on my door and asked to come in. Once inside my room, she asked me if I was watching the parade and I affirmed that I was. She asked if my friends were there and I replied, “Yes, they invited me and I wanted to go, but I love this yoga class I teach, so I decided to stay home.”
She nodded, understanding since she takes all my yoga classes and since she knows how important this class is to me. Then she invited me to watch the parade in her room. I declined the offer, and then she went back upstairs. A few minutes later, she returned to give me a hug and she told me that she loves me no matter what.
Twenty minutes later, before I ran out the door to take care of some errands, I went to her room and saw her watching the parade in the rocking chair she used to cradle my sister and I in when we were infants.
It was the sweetest and simplest moment, but it provided me with the validation and support that I had gotten from my experience at Pride five years ago. This time, however, it was from the person I needed the validation and support from the most.
The door slammed behind me, muffling his roar. Maybe I could no longer hear him at that moment, but I would probably hear him later because it was certainly not the last time we were going to have this conversation, if you could even call it that. Most conversations I have do not include faces red with fury, the slamming of hands on the walls and tables, spit from angrily enunciating words while shouting, and only one person vocalizing their thoughts while the other shrinks into their seat. Most conversations do not look like this, except for the conversations I have been having with him lately.
“Where are you going?” my sister asked from the stairwell as I powered down the hall.
“Out,” I replied tersely, grabbing my car keys and slamming the front door behind me.
No amount of doors slammed could quell the rage that I had to suppress while he had verbally torn me apart.
Tobacco and spearmint lingered on my tongue, and I touched my lips, smiling as I remembered why. With my other hand, I twisted the key in the lock and opened the front door. I froze in fear when I saw a figure standing in the stairwell, but then I realized who it was and relaxed, although annoyance quickly replaced that feeling.
“It’s past 11. Where have you been?”
“Out,” I stated.
“An eleven PM curfew means you have to be here at eleven, not leave where you are at eleven,” she explained, irritated.
“I lost track of time.”
“Who were you with?”
Exasperated, I threw my hands up in the air. “I already told you!”
“Don’t raise your voice at me. Remind me.”
“Marisa…the usual,” I explained, struggling to level my voice.
“Where did you go?” she inquired.
“Dunkin, Starbucks, whatever was open.”
“Those places close at ten. What did you do for an hour?”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “I’m going to my room,” I replied, shrugging past her and heading up the stairs.
“Answer my question!” she yelled after me.
“We were outside. I’ll make you an itinerary next time,” I said, slamming my bedroom door behind me.
My bedroom door burst open and she stormed in, leering down at me as I lay in bed.
“Good morning,” I sarcastically greeted her, sitting up.
“What does this mean?!” she asked, desperation evident in her voice as she threw papers onto my lap.
I briskly shuffled through them and then calmly met her watery stare. “Where did you find these?”
“Well, I don’t know what they mean,” I replied, handing them back to her.
“Is this who you are?” she asked shrilly.
“No. I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you ‘don’t know?’” she shrieked.
“I don’t know!” I yelled, tossing off my blanket and standing up. “I told you everything I know!”
She challenged me with her eyes for a few beats before turning and storming out of my room, slamming the bedroom door shut behind her.
I slowly opened my bedroom door, and we tentatively emerged from behind it. My heart pounded as she looked down at us from the stairs that led to her master bedroom. She spoke sternly and carefully. After a brief interrogation, she dismissed us with a threat to call the police if I bring the woman beside me home again, and she informed me that we were going to discuss this later. As per usual, there probably wouldn’t be too much discussion. Numbly, I nodded, and then we raced down the stairs, seeking out safety in my car.
She leaned over the middle barrier in the car and tilted her head up toward me, smiling. “Alright, well I have to head home, but text me when you get home.”
I nodded and leaned the rest of the way to kiss her awaiting lips. When she pulled away, she smiled at me, causing my heart to flutter. She looked out the windshield and started talking animatedly about our weekend plans, but then she paused.
“Hold on,” she said, her eyebrows furrowing as she focused on the rearview mirror. “What’s that?”
I looked at where she was pointing. Behind the rearview mirror was a small, black microphone. My heart raced as realization struck.
“Can I pull it down?” she asked. I silently nodded in acquiesce.
She turned the microphone over in her hands, raising it closer to her eyes. “I don’t know if this is a recording device, or if it’s just part of your car.”
“I don’t know. My dad regularly works on the car, so I don’t know.”
She put it back behind the rearview mirror and looked at me. “I’ll take a look at it more closely tomorrow when I see you. Try to relax for now.”
I tersely nodded. She lifted her hand to my cheek, cupped it and pulled me toward her for a last goodbye kiss. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the one before. “It’ll be okay,” she murmured. “Text me.”
Then she opened the door and climbed out of my car.
I reluctantly got into the passenger side of my car. He wanted to take a drive with me to get gas, which was thoughtful but I knew he had an ulterior motive.
We rode in silence for ten minutes, and after he told the gas attendant to fill it up, he began his speech.
“I don’t understand you anymore,” he confessed, looking over at me sadly.
I met his eyes and replied, “I’m just not hiding anymore, but I’m the same.”
He shook his head. “No, you hid from us for years.”
“There was never a reason to bring it up.”
“You could’ve brought up that you were struggling.”
“I needed to figure things out for myself.”
The attendant returned to the driver’s side mirror, and my dad handed him cash. We sat in silence while the worker counted the change and handed it to back to my dad. My dad restarted the ignition and pulled out of the station, heading home.
© 2016, 2018 Vic Romero
In honor of Pride Month, which has passed but…I thought I’d share regardless.