Thoughts From My Very First Pride

BY: BEC HOROWITZ

In the weeks leading up to September 28th, 2019, I spent hours curating the perfect rainbow outfit. My shirt— an oversized crop top from Target’s ‘Out and Proud’ line, my pants— burnt orange army pants with plenty of pockets to let my butch side shine, and my makeup— rainbow eyeliner practiced to blended glory ending in immaculate pointed wings. I was just a little excited about attending my first ever Pride event as an out queer teenager. My two best friends would be going with me and the Durham Pride Parade would be their first Pride excursion too, and they showed the same energy in preparing that I did. We texted each other about our Pride plans excitedly, counting down the mornings until we could be there— surrounded by people just like us. 


I’ll admit, half of the reason I wanted to go to pride was to see cute girls. The other half? To go one day without hearing “that’s gay” or “f*g” or d*ke” directed at one of my LGBT+ siblings. The only gay jokes heard that blissful morning were made by us, jokes about not being able to park straight, or walk straight, or basically do anything straight. The environment was endlessly positive. It seemed like everyone around us was smiling; like it was the happiest place on earth. 


So what was Pride like? Loud. And crowded. A little stressful as someone with social anxiety, but well worth it. We stood on the side of the street the Parade went down with hundreds of others, basking in the neon light of thousands of rainbow accessories caught in the morning sun. Clubs and organizations from Triangle cities and colleges (Duke, UNC, NC State, and ECU were all repped), RTP companies like Spectrum and Lenovo, and dozens of local churches of different denominations all came on floats, on foot, and truck beds. My personal favorites included the Durham Roller Derby League— a squad of young women weaving down the street on roller blades, decked out head to toe in Pride apparel— and the Latinx LGBTQI+ Initiative, or ‘Lila’— a float packed with butterfly decor and beautiful local drag queens rocking out to Lizzo. 

A colorful float shown at Durham Pride. (Bec Horowitz, October 2019)


After the Parade finished, we waded against the tide of parade-watchers over to the field of tents set up by local queer creators and larger organizations. I got to talk to representatives from the ACLU (and walked away with a dragon’s hoard of free laptop stickers) and Equality NC, the nation’s first state Equality chapter. 


Eventually, we had to head home. When we reached my friend’s car, I put my bag of free gay goodies in the trunk. The mini pride flag I had been given by a parader fell to the ground and, unnoticed in the lingering shouts and blaring music, got left behind. We finally drove away, silent in the afterglow of all that is Pride during the forty minute journey back to Cary. 


At my driveway, we said our goodbyes. One of my friends was already removing her rainbow ribbons; she had a family event to go to after, she explained. The other nodded and mentioned that she had to wipe off her makeup and change before going to her sisters dance performance. I realized I needed to change for Homecoming if I didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention while dancing with my friend-date. 


In my room, I cried while rubbing off my rainbow eyeshadow. I showered and washed my face while shaking, wondering why Pride had to be one day a year. Why I could only be myself one day a year? As I changed for Homecoming, I looked at all of my dresses, the garment my mom and probably everyone at school was expecting me to wear. I looked at my favorite army green romper…  and made my choice. Who says you can’t wear shorts to Homecoming? Before rushing out the door to meet my date, I spotted a small rainbow ribbon I had pinned to my Pride shirt. Who says you can’t wear a rainbow ribbon to Homecoming?


Today, on the first day of school after Pride (or A.P.), I saw “gay is not okay” scribbled on my desk. Smiling, and thinking back to Saturday night dancing with my friends without a care in the world, I crossed out “not” and added “gay is wonderful” below it. And with the shouts and drum beats of Pride still echoing in my heart, I felt what I wrote— truly— for the very first time. 

In the weeks leading up to September 28th, 2019, I spent hours curating the perfect rainbow outfit. My shirt— an oversized crop top from Target’s ‘Out and Proud’ line, my pants— burnt orange army pants with plenty of pockets to let my butch side shine, and my makeup— rainbow eyeliner practiced to blended glory ending in immaculate pointed wings. I was just a little excited about attending my first ever Pride event as an out queer teenager. My two best friends would be going with me and the Durham Pride Parade would be their first Pride excursion too, and they showed the same energy in preparing that I did. We texted each other about our Pride plans excitedly, counting down the mornings until we could be there— surrounded by people just like us. 


I’ll admit, half of the reason I wanted to go to pride was to see cute girls. The other half? To go one day without hearing “that’s gay” or “f*g” or d*ke” directed at one of my LGBT+ siblings. The only gay jokes heard that blissful morning were made by us, jokes about not being able to park straight, or walk straight, or basically do anything straight. The environment was endlessly positive. It seemed like everyone around us was smiling; like it was the happiest place on earth. 


So what was Pride like? Loud. And crowded. A little stressful as someone with social anxiety, but well worth it. We stood on the side of the street the Parade went down with hundreds of others, basking in the neon light of thousands of rainbow accessories caught in the morning sun. Clubs and organizations from Triangle cities and colleges (Duke, UNC, NC State, and ECU were all repped), RTP companies like Spectrum and Lenovo, and dozens of local churches of different denominations all came on floats, on foot, and truck beds. My personal favorites included the Durham Roller Derby League— a squad of young women weaving down the street on roller blades, decked out head to toe in Pride apparel— and the Latinx LGBTQI+ Initiative, or ‘Lila’— a float packed with butterfly decor and beautiful local drag queens rocking out to Lizzo. 


After the Parade finished, we waded against the tide of parade-watchers over to the field of tents set up by local queer creators and larger organizations. I got to talk to representatives from the ACLU (and walked away with a dragon’s hoard of free laptop stickers) and Equality NC, the nation’s first state Equality chapter. 


Eventually, we had to head home. When we reached my friend’s car, I put my bag of free gay goodies in the trunk. The mini pride flag I had been given by a parader fell to the ground and, unnoticed in the lingering shouts and blaring music, got left behind. We finally drove away, silent in the afterglow of all that is Pride during the forty minute journey back to Cary. 


At my driveway, we said our goodbyes. One of my friends was already removing her rainbow ribbons; she had a family event to go to after, she explained. The other nodded and mentioned that she had to wipe off her makeup and change before going to her sisters dance performance. I realized I needed to change for Homecoming if I didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention while dancing with my friend-date. 


In my room, I cried while rubbing off my rainbow eyeshadow. I showered and washed my face while shaking, wondering why Pride had to be one day a year. Why I could only be myself one day a year? As I changed for Homecoming, I looked at all of my dresses, the garment my mom and probably everyone at school was expecting me to wear. I looked at my favorite army green romper…  and made my choice. Who says you can’t wear shorts to Homecoming? Before rushing out the door to meet my date, I spotted a small rainbow ribbon I had pinned to my Pride shirt. Who says you can’t wear a rainbow ribbon to Homecoming?


Today, on the first day of school after Pride (or A.P.), I saw “gay is not okay” scribbled on my desk. Smiling, and thinking back to Saturday night dancing with my friends without a care in the world, I crossed out “not” and added “gay is wonderful” below it. And with the shouts and drum beats of Pride still echoing in my heart, I felt what I wrote— truly— for the very first time. 

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