Friday, June 3, 2016

Claire Estep: Still Proud

 Two hefty “For Sale” signs have recently been hammered into the lawn of my childhood home. I am never really in town, due to college, so the signs didn't cross my mind twice until the morning of the first showing a few days ago. Mom announced that the realtor was giving a walk through to the first prospective buyer at 10, before she hurried off to work. I was left to get ready as per usual for my job waiting tables. Shower, fix hair, makeup, iron clothes…the same ho hum as always.

 As I stood in front of the mirror mounted on my off-white dresser, making sure I was presentable and ready to go, I spotted the pictures of my girlfriend and me wedged into the side of the mirror. My room had recently been painted so all the photos on my walls had been taken down.  I still wanted them in sight, and my mirror seemed like the next best option. Suddenly, I thought,  “I should take them down. What if they made the buyer offended and not purchase the house because of my homosexuality? What if the realtor no longer felt comfortable showing our house?” Questions raced through my head as I stood there. I looked at the picture of my girlfriend beautiful, hair perfectly in place with a huge shining smile that routinely takes my breath away.  One single tear slid down my face as I grabbed my keys and walked out the door for work, leaving the pictures in place.

 At this same time, Pride Month is just getting started.  Around the world there will be celebrations, rainbows adorning any imaginable surface, glitter, and confetti. The one year anniversary of the legalization of gay marriage will be celebrated along with many first wedding anniversaries of homosexual couples. Parades will proceed through city streets. Equality will be demanded. Loud and proud homosexuals, bisexuals, trans individuals, etc. will be elated to spend this month in these sort of festivities. This is the "pride" we have all heard of and seen on social media. This is the typical display of flamboyancy by which conservatives are so turned-off, but pride doesn't always look the same. Some people, like myself, have been raised in environments where being open about whom you love is unacceptable; forget being proud. Pride month looks different for people like us.

 I'm sure many non-heterosexuals raised in the deep south can relate. Your family does not always support you, and even those that do are not necessarily supportive of you being open. Schools are full of conservative people with spiteful words that bite at any sense of security you have mustered. These bullies' words are fed by those of their parents; a cycle of hatred bred into the gene pool. Hatred continues onto more people than just those in direct contact. The parent of your mom's friend's dog sitter who added you on social media six years ago will post article after article about how she is now boycotting Target because they removed gender labels from children's toys, or something absurd like that. No matter where you turn, there is bigotry and small-mindedness everywhere. These simple acts make Pride Month, and pride in general, difficult to celebrate. Acts of pride may dwindle from a large parade adorned in rainbows to something much, much smaller. Do not be fooled, these acts are still just as full of bravery and pride.

 Sometimes it's not closing your bedroom door to hide the rainbow flag on your apartment wall when new people come over. Grabbing the hand of the girl you are seeing while eating Panera in Alabama. Actually accepting the Facebook invite to a band performance at a local gay bar and now "hiding" it from your timeline, or leaving pictures of you and your girlfriend hung up. Being proud in an environment that has only ever told you to not be is a huge feat. Whatever little thing you do to stand up for your life and sexuality is a display of pride.

 This June, celebrate who you are. Whether it be with a grand display or something small and to yourself, you deserve to be proud of the beautiful soul that you are. Lastly to the allies that will be celebrating alongside this month, we thank you for your care and support.

-Claire Estep

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Maira Gall