by Dustin Woods
June is here again and with it comes Pride month, the wonderful time of year when a plethora of places put on festivities to celebrate being LGBT+.
Taking on the mantle of Pride isn’t easy for some. For those, like myself, who didn’t come out of the closet until later in life and tried to be in heterosexual relationships. We purposefully avoided being proud of who we were because society had led us to believe being homosexual was wrong.
I will always remember my first Pride parade, it was before I came out of the closet, but the event helped me to see there was a substantially large community of people who refused to believe our way of life was wrong.
More influentially to me was these people were my people, I wasn’t at some giant cities massive Pride event like San Francisco, I was in OKC. There were tens of thousands of like-minded Okies standing together to say we are an important part of society. There is strength in numbers and I found mine when I finally realized we actually had some significant numbers.
Having lived outside of Oklahoma for the past year I have grown to value the community LGBT+ OKC has created. In my time on the east coast I have gone to two major Pride parades; Philadelphia and New York City. These events may be bigger than in OKC, especially New York, but they don’t have the same raw emotion of the OKC Pride events I attended.
Pride started in NYC in 1970 in an effort to fight a corrupt and unjust system of policing. However, in Oklahoma, our state had outlawed same sex marriage by a vote of the people as recently as 2004. We are still waging war on the forces of bigotry who wish to use religious freedom as tool for discrimination. The emotions are higher because the threat to our livelihood is greater and more imminent.
The energy at an OKC Pride event is one of celebration but also of exuberant enthusiasm, tempered by the knowledge of how truly difficult it is to achieve the equality we seek. We know there is a long row to hoe before we reach parity, but we aren’t going to let the difficulty of the task or the violent haters opposed to our existence prevent us from working toward achieving the gay agenda of equality.
I am proud to be a gay Oklahoman because I come from a community who has stood together in the face of constant adversity by a plurality of our neighbors. We live in communities with non-trivial numbers of people who wish to treat us like second class citizens.
Regardless of this proximity to vile hate, out LGBT+ southerners show courage everyday just being who they are. I miss my home state and may not live there right now but I will always have the heart of an Okie and blood it pumps is crimson with a dash of red dirt.
If you are a closeted LGBT+ person I hope you have read these words and felt spurred to action. Set aside your fears and go to a Pride event near you. There is no level of acceptance greater than felt at a Pride event.
Please show your support for a community who is waiting for you with open arms.
The Gayly – June 23, 2018 @ 8 a.m. CDT.