I’m looking forward to the Pride of Edmonds picnic at Hickman Park on June 9. It is wonderful of Pride of Edmonds and the Edmonds Diversity Commission to set this up, and I certainly plan to be there.
Non-LGBTQ people may wonder why such an event is needed and what good it will do. Many will have been dismayed or puzzled by widely-publicized photos of over-the-top floats and costumes at various Pride Parades. I will draw fire from some when I say I’m uncomfortable with some of these things as well, but I think it’s important not to pay too much attention to one’s inner harrumphings over people and things one doesn’t necessarily feel familiar or comfortable with.
I knew I was gay — though the term would not come into use for another 15 or 20 years — when I was about 4th or 5th grade. I leaned at almost the same time that this fundamental part of me was loathed by everyone else, and that if I wanted to be safe, I would need to hide.
I never mastered pretending to be straight — taking out a girlfriend, bragging about dates, etc., though I now know some who did. I was “fortunate” to be straight-acting (whatever that is) and to work in a field where my very participation allowed me to “pass” without making things up, but I can remember thinking to myself that I was a spy in enemy territory, that I would never find happiness, and worst of all, that I would always be alone.
Happily, my career flourished, all the way to the Olympics (three times, as a ski tech), writing tech books, and running a ski tuning business. Keeping very busy at something I loved was an antidote to feeling alone, and my career was fascinating and a lot of fun. It also gave me the self confidence to come out to wider and wider circles of friends, and then I met my partner, Chris, and the very idea of hiding seemed to betray everything we had together. So I outed myself in an international magazine. I have never felt freer or stronger.
Chris died in a traffic accident on April 17, 2003. I am alone again, but I am so much stronger because of our love and partnership, and all that I learned from no longer being the center of my own universe. Companionship above all, but also those valuable lessons of having to give and take and admit to being wrong, having to be there when it was not pleasant or convenient – all the things one learns from a sound marriage. I became involved in my church again, out of sheer joy and gratitude for having a wonderful person to share life with, and I’m still a member in a place where I have found support and community.
Which leads me back to the Pride Picnic: Such a happy event can go an enormous way toward eliminating feelings of being alone. A Pride event can introduce the closeted, or the young, or the fearful to community — we are social beings, we all need community and the support community offers.
Edmonds is a fairly open and socially liberal town, but I know there must be closeted young people in Edmonds, young and old, who fear in so many ways what could happen to them if they came out: rejection by family (about 40 percemt of the homeless kids in Seattle are LGBT “rejects”), rejection and harassment by schoolmates and/or teammates, bashing (as I write this, Huffpost carries an article about a young gay couple in Denver who were stabbed outside a nightclub by an individual yelling anti-gay epithets). LGBT people face denigration in their churches, even tacit homophobia in the pages of local papers. I know, I grew up here — and though times are better, the struggle isn’t over yet.
Some will complain that Pride events are too “In your face.” Well, only if you bring your face to the parade looking to be offended. Ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or in a port when the navy arrives? The Pride picnic it won’t be anything nearly as “interesting,” so calm down.
I expect the Edmonds Pride Picnic will be a great occasion. I hope a lot of closeted folks will find the courage to attend. It will do them good. It will give them some sense of community. It will give them some PRIDE. We need events such as this.
— By Nathaniel Brown