I wear a pink baseball cap to the grocery store. My Levi’s special edition Harvey Milk Day cut-off denim shorts to the park. A pair of 4-rth tighty yoga shorts and big rose-tinted, purple-framed sunglasses sitting on the stoop drinking my morning coffee. An aqua, pink, and yellow Speedo to the pool. A black fun-fur North Face vest in the winter. And I’m fucking proud of it.
Gay pride is different things to different people. But as June turns to July in this year of the pandemic, I am given cause to reflect on what exactly pride is to me. I have participated in small-town pride festivals a couple of times. And once, in the gestation of my gayness, I sneeky-peeked at the gold-painted Naked Gay Man as he rode up Fifth Avenue on a white stallion in New York’s big parade. I would have gone to my first big-city pride parade in Boston this year, but it was not to be.
Granted, I waited a long time to come out. I have been told that my taste in fashion indicates that I am still coming out, three and one-half years later. One could make the same observation based on my penchant for reading “gay” books, watching “gay” TV, and buying kitschy plaster Discoboli (a nude man, but for a fig leaf) in thrift shops.
I am sympathetic to the argument made by some people, both straight and “discreet,” that sex and love are private matters best kept that way—the “why do you have to keep waving a rainbow flag” argument. What I am and who I love are no one’s business but mine, and if no one made any assumptions, I would have no need to make corrections. But in a world governed by cisgender, heteronormative assumptions, where we are all straight until proven LGBTQ, we all have the right to correct those who assume wrong. And in a world where we are still too often made to feel uncomfortable (or worse) in straight company, we have the right to form our own company.
Further, we have the right to do this in the manner of our own choosing. Some gay men dress in pinstripes; when the occasion calls for it, they take someone aside and say, “Just so you know, I’m gay.” Others may “sound gay” or hold hands with a man while walking down the street. I communicate through dress, and not just one day a year. This, to me, is the meaning of gay pride—this perpetual coming out to strangers, friends, and myself; this construction of my own identity, which says, “I am who I am. Get used to it.”