When my alarm went off, cutting through the still and the darkness of my apartment at 5:30 am this morning, I had no idea what was to come for me this day. Yes, I knew I was going to NYC Pride. It was an event that I have covered for work a few times. Last year, I was sent to do the cleanup coverage on the overnight shift. When I finally got out of bed and started to get ready, I still did not have any idea what this day would become for me.
It has been a long personal ride for me to get where I am now in my life. Back 15+ years ago when I started the cover pride events for my job as a photographer, I never considered myself a part of this community. I always had, for the lack or a better word, a warm spot for this community, but me being part of it, no. That was due to my own issues of whom I was and who I should be. Something everyone goes through in their own way. That’s a discussion for another time.
So at 7:50 am, I got in my car to head out t0 meet up with a group of people that have fast become friends. We were heading to the city for my first Pride. My mind was on everyone else around me, concerned with their well-being. In looking back now, I have always been that way. I was using them to not think about my own nerves. I guess in some ways I was still not feeling a part of this community that in many ways I am actually a part of. So I focused on keeping the group together on the train, in Penn Station, and on the subway. Every now and then, my mind would wander, and I would think about whether I belonged or about what would happen if someone I knew who I was not out to saw me. It was something that surprised me as I thought I was past all that. I had not worried about it in over a year, but there I was thinking about it.
Fast-forward to the start of the march as we lined up and started moving. My mind was still letting just enough of my issues in to remind me that they were there, but it was not letting me focus on them entirely. It was like my mind was afraid of letting go. I guess something I have been afraid of doing all my life. Why would that change here? Little did I know that change would come sooner than later.
"ALL AT ONCE, IT HIT ME. ALL THESE FEELINGS, IF YOU CAN NAME THEM, I HAD THEM."
As we turned and started heading down 7th Avenue, my mind kicked into overdrive. It was something that I was not ready for or even could have anticipated, so how would I be ready for what happened? All at once, it hit me. All these feelings, if you can name them, I had them. As this was happening, my ability to process anything mentally had failed me. So as we were marching and everyone around me was singing, dancing and waving their flags, I was mentally contemplating to myself my life, along with who I am and I was feeling guilty. Guilty of my feelings. There is a saying about being alone in a crowd, well here I was.
It is hard for me the write in words what was going on for me in that moment. Happy that I was marching down 7th Avenue, feeling the love and support from everyone who gathered on the street to watch this mass of rainbow humanity as it makes its way down the street in defiance of all that would denounce it. But I was also fighting with myself about who I am and why am I so scared of who I am. About the need to live my life and being so fucking scared to do it. Feeling guilty that I have kept people away in a form of self-protection. That I am living two lives. That I have kept my life compartmentalized with my male side on one and my female on the other. Then, we made the turn onto Christopher Street.
"AT THE MOMENT WE CROSSED OVER ON TO CHRISTOPHER STREET I FELT PROUD. PROUD OF BEING A TRANS WOMAN OF COLOR."
It was not the rainbow crosswalk or the people on the street cheering that totally changed my feeling at that moment. The feeling I felt was pride, for as you may know or maybe you don’t, Pride was born form the Stonewall Riots in 1969; a Police raid on June 28, 1969 where the people fought back and were led by trans women of color. At the moment we crossed over on to Christopher Street I felt proud. Proud of being a trans woman of color. Proud of my sisters who stood up and said no more. Proud that we were all here this day, in this place, because of trans women of color. As we passed the Inn, as much as I felt pride, I also felt a feeling of guilt. I know I use that world a lot, but I don’t know how else to put it. As a trans woman or color myself, I feel like I am not doing enough. I am not picking up the torch they lit for me in 1969. That goes back to my feeling about my identity. About this person that is here in front of this computer in a Starbucks, one minute feeling okay and the next not. I know that I am not going to find the answer today in this screen, but what did start at Pride is me dealing with the issues I need to so I can pick up that touch. So I can be the person I am.
Prior to boarding the train to New York City for Pride, a reporter for a newspaper asked me what Pride had meant to me. I could not answer her. I had rambled something about defiance and showing the world and people in places of power we are here. I did not have a real answer to that question until now.
So I put my armor on as I get ready to do battle with myself. Discovering and accepting the person whom you truly are, and not the person everyone thinks you are, can be a violent and scary experience. But it is also a necessary one, for life is too short to not be yourself.