By Caleb Raynor
My first Pride was a huge let down. I found myself discouraged by the lack of real diversity I saw and as a kid who had no choice but to be out due to my effeminate nature, it was sad. Recalling now, it would have been nice to see an older representation of myself, to see them living a life fulfilled, surrounded by people who I would want to be surrounded by, rejoicing in fellowship in the summer sun.
The idea of fellowship is such a strong concept in the gay community. We devote an entire month to Pride. People travel near and far to connect with each other and the opportunity to impact lives is subtly significant. “Showing up” is such a strong part of making the month everything it needs to be for everyone. Community is made of many different types of people; and in the gay community, we should strive to be as diverse as our flag. But it takes each and everyone of us to make each and every color of that flag vibrant, strong, and true. Participation is key.
The importance of showing up
I often wonder where the older representation of myself was during my first Pride. Were they OK? Did they spend time that day questioning the impact his presence would have? Did they give in to the notion that they didn’t matter? Why didn’t they show up?
It took until my early twenties to find queer friends who represented all that I see our flag to be. Every year I encourage them to join me at Pride, and every year a newcomer insists that it isn’t the place for them. I love having the pleasure of reminding them to “show up” at pride. It doesn’t matter how you feel the community has treated you, what you feel about the sponsors or venues, nor the presence of your ex, just SHOW UP. We have an obligation to one another to be visible and vibrant, if not for ourselves.
Caleb Neal Raynor is a recent graduate of The University of Oklahoma, living in Tulsa, who seeks to bring light and empathy to this world through writing.