Although the novelty of attending Pride has worn off for some, the significance of this year’s Capital Pride festivities was not lost on me. The Pride festival was my first time attending a Pride event of any kind.
I’ve been a part of the LGBT community for some time now, but I’m not often able to express that in a public setting. I grew up in a conservative, religious community and now attend college on the Maryland Eastern Shore in another conservative area. There weren’t — aren’t — many places or events that celebrate differences or diversity like Pride. Young closeted gays didn’t have anything that would help normalize LGBT people and there was (and remains) the deep-seated alienation that comes from being somewhere you don’t feel you belong.
Pride to me is an event where people of all ages and from all over come together to celebrate the parts of themselves that not everyone is willing to accept. Even though Pride is not a new event, gay rights have only recently become prioritized and normalized in America. It still baffles me that same-sex marriage was only legalized three years ago. I am lucky to be able to come out during an era in which same-sex love is, at the very least, legal. I can still remember the pure joy on some of my friends’ faces when they realized that they, too, can get married.
I felt that joy and freedom at Pride. It was a little overwhelming at first — so many people dressed up — and there were so many people — but the happiness and positivity were infectious. And really, how often are people able to walk around in head-to-toe rainbows? It’s hard not to feel that energy and be transformed by it.
As for me, I spent time working at the Blade’s booth and just having the opportunity to be a part of something as powerful as Capital Pride was an experience I will never forget. The front cover of the Pride issue of the Blade lamented the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop’s unwillingness to serve gay customers, which served as a reminder that even as the LGBT community becomes more open, in many ways we are still not entirely accepted.
Being bisexual is sometimes uncomfortable to acknowledge to people, and I know that I am not alone in this. Attending Pride reminded me that every sexual and gender orientation is normal and that it is possible to embrace and display an identity that differs from others in my community. I still struggle with my identity. The love and acceptance I felt at Pride reassured me that I am loved, I am not an aberration, I am free to be me, completely.
Besides the $15 chicken tenders, the only other thing I purchased at the festival was a bisexual Pride flag. I’ve never felt the need to own an LGBT flag (or a flag of any kind) before, but the atmosphere stirred me to make some sort of proclamation about my sexuality. Now it hangs in my apartment on my bedroom wall. When I wake up in the morning, it is one of the first things I see. I’m glad to have the reminder of my first time at Pride, and I can finally say that I am proud to be unabashedly me.
Abby Wargo, a Blade summer intern, is a student at Washington College and editor of The Elm student newspaper.