PRIDE Celebration: An Essay

To celebrate PRIDE Month, our very own Olyvia has an essay to share:

 

What does Pride mean to me? I’ve never sat down to try to articulate that. Pride has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I’ve never actually had to think about what it means to me.

Pride is family. I remember when my dad came out to me and my sister. We were around 7 and 8, respectively. We’d been living with his partner for years and it wasn’t weird to me, it was just like having an extra parent. David loved us and we loved him. My dad didn’t tell us he was gay, or even what ‘gay’ was until they’d broken up, and we were moving out. I couldn’t really tell you why at the time, but I knew my dad being gay was something to keep to myself. He kept it from us, so we should keep it from other people.

Except during Pride. Pride became part of my summer routine in Rochester, NY. Even after moving to Florida, we were back for the summer and still going to Pride. Pride celebrations were some of the only times I got to see my dad be himself, when he was with this family that he’d found. A family that understood and accepted him, when he didn’t always get that from his own.

Pride is courage. When I still lived in Rochester, I told one person that my dad was gay, and I was amazed when she told me she had two moms. It was incredible that my best friend understood my life and my dad perfectly. But I also understood that this was still a secret. A secret that I could finally share with someone, but a secret nonetheless.

A few months after moving to Florida, I was hanging out with my closest friend and a few other people when one of them made some comment about the LGBT community. I could not for the life of me tell you what he said because all I remember was my friend’s quick and fierce response, “my sister is bisexual, do you have a problem with gay people?” Later that day when we were hanging out at her place, she became the second person I ever told that my dad was gay. I figured if she could just tell everyone about her sister and defend her sister, and if my dad could live his life and not be ashamed, I wouldn’t be ashamed of him either. I would be proud that he had the courage to come out when he did and be a single parent at the same time.

Pride is representation. After I started being more open about my life, I got the opportunity to be a part of the first Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school and then would go on to serve as the Vice President of the LGBT student organization at my university. I met two of my best friends, one of whom is trans, the other pansexual, who would become my found family.

In working with those groups and having the majority of my friend group identify as queer I started watching and reading more and more queer media. But also I noticed that as the years went on, there was more and more queer media available. Not all of it good, not by a long shot, but still, there is more and more every year. I listened and saw how important it was to see oneself on a screen or in the pages of a book. More importantly, I started to see myself.

Pride… is honesty. I’d always known that I liked men. I’ve only had relationships with men. I’ve kissed a lot of women, as well as men. But I always assumed because none of that led to a relationship, I was just straight. I knew, logically, that I could like both, but realistically, I’d heard  (and even said) a lot of terrible things about bisexual people.

I met the love of my life five years ago. I have no intention of ever letting him go. He’s good to me, he makes me laugh, he understands me, he listens to me complain about the stupidest shit, he lets me cry and snot all over his shoulder when things are really bad, he tells me bad puns just to see my face crinkle, he teaches me new things, he makes me believe growing old wouldn’t be so bad with him by my side.

The truth is I don’t need to be with anyone else to validate my identity. My identity as a bisexual woman doesn’t go away just because I’m with a man and I plan to be with him for the rest of my life. So this Pride month, I’m going to be honest with myself and with everyone, because it’s important to me. And I think it’s especially important at this point in our world, to be who you are in the face of ever-increasing adversity. My hope is that someone else will see my story and can relate and it makes it easier for them to be honest. And above all, to be proud.

Book Review: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

28698224Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series “I Am Jazz” making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence particularly high school complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy especially when you began your life in a boy s body.

So, I super enjoyed this book, even though you can tell it was written by a fifteen year old. At first, the writing style of speaking to the reader sort grated on my nerves (because it was teenager-speak and I am clearly old and crotchety). However, she has a lot of important and meaningful things to say, so eventually I got used to it and I just enjoyed the book. She’s funny and sincere and once I got over my original annoyance, I realized she does have a great voice (I mean, people have been listening to her tell her story since she was tiny).

I really appreciated how she always insisted that she lives a normal life. She also emphasizes that she is really lucky to live that normal life because of her family, and how they’ve supported her for her entire life. She uses her privilege and her platform to remind readers that not every trans person is that lucky. Multiple times throughout the book she throws statistics out there about the number of trans lives that are lost every year. She uses those statistics to remind herself that she is lucky, but also to remind herself of why she has this public platform: to save other trans folks and to educate others about trans issues.

I also really loved that she normalized her mental health issues, as well. She made sure to say they were separate from her dysphoria, but that they were still a part of her. I think it’s important to normalize mental health and getting help and emphasize the fact that it literally happens to anyone and there is no shame in getting help.

I think this is a great book for literally everyone, but most especially parents of trans kids who want to have some kind of perspective on what their child is going through, and for trans kids just so they can see that they’re not alone. Overall, I’d give it 4 bards.

fourbards




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