June is once again upon us, and Pride is busting out all over. This weekend, Denver celebrates its annual Pride Fest, and this year, now that I suddenly find myself shacked up with something of a local celebrity in Denver’s queer community, we have splashier plans than usual. It is well known to regular readers of Mister S that I love being Proud, and it is my mission as an artist to encourage You to be Proud, too, wherever your particular, unique brand of Awesomeness may dwell. At this stage in my life, being Proud is easy and fun, and, in my fervor to see everyone around me fling loose whatever shackles are standing between them and their own brand of Pride, I often gloss over the early steps in my own journey, some of which were steeper than I would necessarily prefer to highlight. I will tell anyone who asks (and people ask all the time) that I have “always” known that I was gay. And it’s true: as far back as I can remember, deep into little kid-dom, I always knew I was “different,” even before I fully understood what that meant. But “knowing” that I was different and digging deep enough to find the courage to allow my difference to manifest itself were two very distinct processes. Knowing it was easy; going to my first Coalition to End Homophobia meeting in college and saying with a straight face (ha ha) that I was there as an “ally” rather than as an actual Queer was excruciating.
It was only a few nights later that the ridiculous way claiming not to be gay made me feel prompted to come out to my New Best Friend, who took most of the wind out my sails (and cemented a lifelong friendship) by saying, “Me, too.” “But, you can’t be a lesbian,” she still teases me for saying. “Aren’t they all mean?” Ever a trooper, she embarked on a long (and, I’m sure, unrewarding) career of prying open my eyes, mind, and heart on myriad issues of tolerance by trying to help me open my heart to tolerating my damn self. Having enjoyed a certain Queer Rebirth at Long Beach Pride at the end of our freshman year, she returned to campus with a brilliant evangelical plan: she would take me to Pride and let the healing begin. Stranded in the Inland Empire, with something of a Pride Emergency on her hands, it was determined that waiting until the large summer festivals was too much time wasted, and so we set out for Pomona Pride. The Tiniest Pride Ever, at least in 1991, it didn’t stretch to the outer limits of its small municipal host park. Its main feature was a lanky S&M enthusiast cavorting clumsily across the one stage in leopard-print Dove shorts, snapping his riding crop and preaching to his wide-eyed audience (of two) that Love is the True Handcuff, and none of the attendees were of the Water Polo-Playing Frat Boy variety over whom I spent so much of my free time pining, so I didn’t quite see the point. Was I supposed to be “proud” to be like that guy with the riding crop? I wasn’t lanky, I could dance, thank you very much, and I wasn’t about to be caught dead out in a pair of Dove shorts; my friend says she could actually see me pulling my closet door shut again as we drove away. Continue reading