By Madeline English, Texas State ‘23
Pride Isn’t Just for June
Hello and welcome to Coffee Talks! This is a section where we drink coffee together, while staying apart, and talk about things. Today, I am drinking some homemade CS cold brew with a little bit of caramel almond milk creamer. Today, I am also reflecting upon this last June and how I feel like I didn’t really get to celebrate Pride. Pride is an important event for me and my family because we always go out to the marches and parades. However, due to COVID-19, all of our Pride festivities have been put on hold. That doesn’t mean that I’m not full of love and support for my community. So, today, I will tell you my personal coming out story and things that make me want to celebrate Pride all year long. I hope you will join me with your own cup of coffee and relive these events with an open heart. When I was just 13 years old, I came out of the closet while living in South Texas and no idea how it would affect my life, if at all. I had been wrestling with when and where to tell my parents and every time I thought about it, my heart would race and my eyes would fill with tears. I had told a few good friends, all of whom had no problems. Everyone was okay with this news that had been weighing on me for a very long time. I knew that the next step was to tell my parents exactly who I was. I remember the day that it happened so vividly because I feel that is the day I was able to begin the next chapter of my life as truthfully and as open as I wanted. It was New Year’s Eve 2014 and I was in 8th grade. I went to Kaffie Middle School, an old building tucked into a neighborhood, in Corpus Christi, Texas. I played basketball on the Girls’ B Team, ran cross country and track, and swam on the swim team. I was in the choir and had been for at least a year at that point. I had a good set of friends and we had all planned to move away to New York or California when we went to college. I still talk to those girls to this day. On December 31st, 2014, my friend, Dannielle, and I were sitting at the kitchen counter, talking with my mother about how excited we were to be done with middle school. We had talked about how we had our gym period as our first period of the day and we were complaining about how we got sweaty and felt gross throughout the day. My mother laughed and joked, “What boys are you trying to smell good for?”, Dannielle burst into laughter because she knew there wasn’t a boy I was trying to smell good for. If anything, I wanted to smell good for myself! My mother, noticing her laughter and my subsequent nervous laughing and wide eyes, asked why we were laughing and asked if there were any boys that we liked. I remember thinking that this was the best chance I would get where it would come up somewhat naturally. I got up, walked across the kitchen, and whispered, “I think I’m gay,” in my mother’s ear. She looked at me and said, “Okay. Do you want me to tell Dad?” I told her yes and we hugged. Dannielle and I went to her grandparents house for a New Year’s Eve party and I panicked about what I had done. When I came home, my parents and I sat on their bed and we talked about what this meant. I cried for a lot of it. They assured me that everything was okay and they would support me, no matter what. That was it, that was my whole story. Over the next few months, I came out to more friends and family members and never received a word of hate or confusion. To this day, I consider myself to be extremely lucky in that department as there are thousands of homeless Queer youth who have been turned away by their friends and families. On June 26th, 2015, I woke up to a bunch of texts from friends and families. All of them with the same message in them: Same-sex marriage had been legalized within the United States of America. I didn’t believe it. I laid in bed and scrolled through the news and sure enough, there it was. I walked downstairs to tell my parents but found that my mom was running errands and my dad was at work. I turned on the news and watched as thousands of people proudly kissed their partners and waved the rainbow flag in front of cameras and bystanders. The memory I will carry for the rest of my life, the thing I remember the most about that day, was my mom calling me from the local HEB to ask me if I had seen the news and to tell me congratulations. I cried in the same kitchen I had come out to her in, barely six months prior. I went to my first Pride festival that same summer, my mom, sister, and I drove 2 ½ hours from Corpus to San Antonio. It was so hot and so foreign but I felt so safe and so supported. I wanted to do this every single year for the rest of my life.
From left to right, Marsha P. Johnson, her boyfriend, Joseph Ratanski, and Sylvia Rivera in 1973 (Image: Gary LeGault / Wikipedia Commons). Pride is a celebration of being who you are, who you’ve always been. You are surrounded by people who have had similar experiences, similar stories, and similar attitudes. You are with people who understand not just the big things, like coming out, but the little things too, like how do I find a safe gay club? Pride is full of color and life and love and history and support. There are families, there are couples, there are drag queens, there are resources, and there is some of the most fabulous music you have ever heard. Why wouldn’t we want to have this spirit all year long? Resources for Queer Youth: The Trevor Project is a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to Queer youth: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/ Information for Queer youth on sexual activity, substance use, mental health, discrimination, and violence: HealthyChildren.org: Health Concerns for Gay and Lesbian teensexternal icon The It Gets Better Project inspires people across the globe to share their stories and remind the next generation of Queer youth that hope is out there: It Gets Better Projectexternal icon The Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation together serve as America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality. This link is to shed light on the dangers of conversion therapy and to educate others on how prevalent it is: https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN): Student Action GLSEN believes that every student has the right to a safe, supportive, and LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 education and helps create GSA’s across the country: Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN): Student Actionexternal icon Accurate information for those who want to better understand sexual orientation: American Psychological Association: Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityexternal icon Here is a master list of a ton of resources you can find: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm