Every time Pride rolls around, there are a lot of things that I wish I could tell you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stranger on the street or a family member, I wish I could tell you all about how I’m one of the happy, fully formed gays. I wish I could tell you how good it feels to be bi and non-binary and all the words along the rainbow that I am. I want to sell you the idea that each year I feel more me. I want you to believe, as much as I want me to believe, that each year is growth and that my life is like a Pride commercial – all rainbows and upbeat indie jams.
I wish I could tell you that I love my queerness all the time. I wish I could say it doesn’t hurt so bad that I don’t want it sometimes. I wish I could be brave like I was as a boy with scraped knees, pretending nothing happened. I wish I could tell you that it doesn’t scare me. I wish I could tell you that I’m not so afraid sometimes that I forget who I am and what the image of me means to people I love. I want you to believe that I’ve conquered my queerness, that I’m not repressed. I want you to see me free of shackles, living vibrant and fabulous everyday. I don’t want you to know how many pieces of women’s clothes I’ve bought only to not wear because the fear hangs heavier than the fabric. I don’t want you to know how hard it is to rep and how weak I feel when I finally do it.
I wish I could tell you I was a committal queer, one of the fierce ones that’s better than their fears. I wish I could be as flamboyant as Liberace so at least I wouldn’t get side-eyed by both sides. I wish I could tell you that my whole existence was set and strong as the stones of a fortress and not fluid and wild as a river. I wish I could tell you what I am, was, and will be in simple words. In the darkest moments, I wish I could tell you it was all a phase and that every man in my bed was a happy accident.
I wish I could say the sunny things young queers could use to hear. I wish I could tell you that there were no nights where I cried, no nights where I wished it away, no nights where I looked at the thin lines of myself in a dark mirror and wondered who was there.
I wish that I could say I picked up all the beautiful things in femininity and left behind the toxic masculinity, that I’m the clean figure of androgyny. I wish I could tell you that no bad things come out the closet door when you open it. I wish I could tell you that all the pictures of gayness won’t make you feel fat when you’re skinny, ugly when you’re beautiful, scared when you’re safe. I wish so much that I could tell you how we leave every single hang up behind us when we step out of the closet.
I wish that I could tell you that I don’t understand why people like me die early, suicide or otherwise. I wish I could tell you that the thought of suicide has never crossed my mind. I wish I could tell you that thought of suicide hasn’t stopped in my mind, laid down roots, built a home, and spoken to me like a neighbor. I wish that I loved myself enough to never want dissolve in the middle of the dark night, molecules reassembled into a different, happier person. I wish I could tell you about the nights where I wish I had disappeared and the mornings where I was so happy that I was still here.
I wish I could tell you that gayness is easy. Hell, I wish I could tell you that it’s hard, but in some beautiful, self-sacrificial way that you could respect – that makes your kids and their kids and their kids fear it less.
What I can tell you is it’s hard in an ugly, real way. It’s hard in the way crying over something at night, by yourself is. It’s hard in the small, consistent ways that age your skin and organs. It’s hard in the boring, bitchy way that most adult things are. It’s hard like taxes, hard like career changes, hard like job applications, hard like sitting in line for food stamps, hard like holding shit together, hard like getting extra shit thrown into your lap that you have to deal with no matter how much other shit is already there. It’s not hard in a pretty, glitter-coated way. It’s not chasing a rainbow, at least not for me.
What I can tell you is that I’m not the loud, beautiful, strong queer you want me to be. I never was and I never will be. I wake up with not half the strength to fight like an icon or carry myself like a martyr. I wake up with just enough to drag myself through the hot June sun long enough that I can get my day done. I don’t wake up with enough to tackle all my thoughts. I wake up with enough to tackle about half of them in the dark before I go to bed and let the rest run wild in my dreams. I don’t wake up with enough to tackle the worlds problems, I wake up with enough to think about one issue and write about it in a few months.
What I can tell you is that all this struggle is what pride is for me. I can tell you that pride isn’t a parade, it’s a riot. Internally, externally, it’s one continuous struggle that you hope to get better at. It’s a battle that you can’t always win but you can lose at any point. I can tell you that it’s not pride for the queerness your given, it’s pride for the living with it. I can tell you I’m not proud of being bi or non-binary or anything else I had no role in picking. I’m proud of how I find peace and fulfillment within it when there’s cultural war all around it. I’m proud for thinking about suicide and choosing to stay alive. I can tell you that I don’t have enough to make that kind of pride shine like a pageant in summer, but I do have enough to keep it alive.
~Austin R Ryan