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July 17, 2019 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

It is Enough: Reflections on Pride


I’ve never written about my fear or my anger, because I’ve never felt like I was queer enough, knew enough, or felt comfortable enough with my identity. I’m slowly learning, in the words of Virginia Woolf’s famous Mrs Ramsay, “It is enough!” 


Pride has become more than a single march, or a month—it is a model for how to be.


Pride is ever-evolving. Ruby, the first person I came out to, sold ribbons on behalf of Rainbow Youth. One day after Latin (the school’s hotspot of young queers), I asked if I could wear one of the ribbons: “It doesn’t matter if they aren’t for straight people, I’m not straight anyways”. This was apparently shocking, given I’d expertly played my part as the perfect private school girl. Gay didn’t fit into the equation. 


The ribbon was still on my blazer two years later, as I added a rainbow sash and spoke in front of 1500 people on Pink Shirt Day. I thought this meant I had accepted myself, that I was proud.


Three days later, two 11-year-olds who I coached came running up to me, noticed the ribbon, and excitedly told me they too “were part of the community”. Shocked by their confidence, still shackled to the same fears that parents and the school would complain over my visibility, I completely clammed up as they jabbered me with questions. I had faked an illusion of pride, but the shame ran deep.


When you are the resident gay at your school, hall, or friend group, people come to confide in you, looking for answers and reassurance. They want you to reflect your pride onto them. Ruby, who creates safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth in Auckland (and now one of my closest friends), knows this intimately, and it regularly happens to me. I am stunned when people came out to me—I don’t have it all figured out, and don’t know when I will. 


Who am I to tell them what to do?


I wanted Pride to give me power, not a mantle of responsibility. Unfortunately, being visible has its consequences, including violence and hatred that is far greater than the emotional turmoil of being the keeper of secrets.


As I write this, World Pride Month is drawing to a close. It was filled with celebration, feathers and sequins, Stonewall remembrance, and important dialogues around intersectionality and representation. Pride in New Zealand is celebrated in February, and was mired in controversy this year. Recent debate over the presence of police, and the increasingly commercialised nature of Pride exposed deep divisions.


It’s clear that the queer community doesn’t have it all figured out, either.


The first New York Pride March held on June 28, 1970 was not an act of celebration, but an act of protest. The flier declared: “It is our hope that the day will come when homosexuals will be an integral part of society—being treated as human beings.” I know that nothing is perfect, but I believe this is a future that we can grasp with both hands. 


There is a balance to be found between grassroots activism and societal celebration, between protest and parade. It is something we will keep searching for, not just during February or June, but in the tiny actions that make up life. 


I know that my experience of Pride greatly contrasts to that of takatāpui, and is different again to someone who lived through the HIV/AIDS crisis. However, it shares a common thread that walks a tightrope between defiance and celebration.


I’ve learnt that Pride grows and shrinks as you meet people who uplift you and people who hand you flyers encouraging you to come back to Jesus. As you go to lesbian knitting and as you acknowledge things you have chosen to ignore. When you shove away the straight drunk girl who climbs on your lap and kisses your neck and tells you “you should like it”, and when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. As you enter relationships and leave relationships. When you walk into Ivy and when you walk into your grandmother’s house. When you pick up labels and discard them. 


I wanted the world to wait to confide in me until I was sure. Until I was confident and queer enough; but I faked it so well that everyone believed I was secure in myself and my identity—that shame was for the scars of the past.


I’ve learnt that chasing security is an elusive task. The queer experience is a kaleidoscope. I can struggle with accepting my identity and I can ask someone to a ball, for cocktails, into my life. I can be angry at the way I still feel compelled to create distance, to reassure my friends “No. I’m not into you”. Fearful for the young girls I coached who will have to go on this same journey.


But they will have role models in every area of life: from major blockbusters to the small screen, politicians such as Louisa Wall and Pete Buttigieg. They will have sex education that includes them and affirms them. They will have gender-neutral bathrooms and schools that drop gender pronouns entirely. They will have Kiwi poets like Chris Tse and Hera Lindsay Bird. All of this contributes to building a sense of pride that will hopefully seem innate, rather than hard fought for. 


When struggling with Pride, I remember the words of Samira Wiley (who plays Poussey in Orange is the New Black, the show that was many a young gay’s sexual awakening) “We are our LGBTQ+ ancestors’ wildest dreams”. 


I am proud of how far I’ve come from that terrified 16-year-old who asked for a rainbow ribbon, and then locked herself in the science bathrooms and cried for the next hour, struggling to catch her breath. Now when I come out to new people, I breathe out. 


So, Pride is a parade: Yes. 

Pride is protest: Inherently. 

Pride is power: Sometimes? 

Pride is recognition: Ideally. 

Pride is responsibility: Only if you accept it. 


It is enough. 




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