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June 26, 2020

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” - Vern? Myers’ 

When I moved to West Hollywood (WEHO) in December 2016 it changed my life. I will never forget listening to “Another Day of Sun” as I drove down the rainbow-flag-lined streets. I didn’t realize until that moment, but I had been waiting my whole life to feel like I truly belonged.

But before I talk about Pride, I want to first address Shame.

As much as any self-help book or Pinterest quote will tell you to be proud of who you are, it’s not easy when people are giving you dirty looks in the bathroom, assuming you are a “sir” because of your hair cut or protesting your very existence in the streets where you live. Much of my formative adolescence was spent putting parts of me into neat little boxes that I would only unpack in the comfort of my extremely supportive family and close trusted friends.

Fast-forward through the years as the world began not only to accept gay culture, but to embrace it. And finally, to my move to WEHO where I could walk down the street and see people who looked like me, loved like me, and knew my experiences. I went to bars that were designed for me. I made friends who I could talk to about the TV shows and movies that reflected who I am. I could laugh loudly, show affection and even use the bathroom without feeling like I was under a microscope. WEHO didn’t say “I accept that you are here” … WEHO said “you belong here, this place is for you, and we are happy to have you”.

Imagine if our world said that to everyone who lived in it.

Pride is having the opportunity to express who you are, loudly, and without fear of being judged, stereotyped or even killed. Pride is a luxury and not one experienced by all. Pride is standing in a group that shares a common thread when the world can make you feel so untethered. Pride is a lightness of spirit. Pride is comfort and ease and confidence and love. Pride is celebrating exactly who you are in a world that so often tells you to feel ashamed.

This Pride season, many people will want to know how they can be a good LGBTQ+ ally. While I can’t speak for the entire community, what matters to me is how much a person can learn quietly about our history, our struggle and our culture, and use this information to make the world around them a place where we too can belong. If you are looking for a place to start, try seeking out books, movies and TV programs that feature main characters or are written by those in the community. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you want my totally biased opinion!

At the end of the day, all we ever want is to feel like we belong. The more we can seek to understand each other and embrace our differences, the better and more interesting the world can be.

 

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