As perhaps the strangest month in the history of Pride gets under way, there has never been a better time to evaluate its true meaning. Typically, our celebrations are compounded with arguments of what Pride is and isn't and how it should or shouldn't change on a macro level.
However, since we will have to wait to debate the validity of corporate rainbow branding and the integrity of naked boys on boxes for at least another year, the micro-experience of Pride will have to take center stage.
In my 20s, Pride was all about visibility and acceptance. Like many others past and present, I needed to be who I truly was in public to shed the mask of shame I had worn for far too long. I wanted the world to see me, acknowledge my presence as I truly was, and understand that I was not going anywhere.
This form of Pride isn't restricted to any specific age, but it is more of an adolescent part of the LGBTQ experience. For anyone who's felt the need to hide their real self, it is an inevitable rite of passage most of us need. There is no feeling like waving a giant flag declaring your otherness while surrounded by those who are a part of your tribe. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn't last forever.
In my experience, the evolution of my personal Pride has been a discovery of self-respect. As I'm an out HIV-positive man, many people have been confused and outright angered by the confidence I have in spite of my diagnosis.
I have heard various iterations of how HIV is "nothing to be proud of" over the years, so my version of Pride has been to remind folks in the community about just how much the legacy of HIV is interwoven with Pride. For me, the exhilaration of what this LGBTQ event once was has evolved into a mission to help better my community.
Settling into your queer identity can often come with the challenge of learning how to fit within the LGBTQ community. So you have established who you are. Great! But what will your life experience lead you to become? This is the part of Pride that many of us never expected. It's the part where we have to figure out not just how to love ourselves for who we are, but learn how to respect ourselves for the mark we leave on the world.
What comes next after coming out is the hard part of Pride. After the newness wears off, what keeps the thrill of being a part of such a dynamic community alive? Do you become politically active? Do you take part in philanthropy? Do you start a book club? Or do you just keep trying to get your shit together and do a little better than you did before? Each of us has our own path forward, a journey to try to do our best when doing so can sometimes feel impossible.
As simple as it may sound, what Pride means to you is all that matters, but that meaning will continue to change as you grow. So while massive festivals and monumental Pride celebrations around the world are put on pause, I hope you still feel the importance of your own form of Pride. The parties and parades are a blast, but learning to love your authentic self and sharing yourself with others has always been enough.
Contributing editor TYLER CURRY is alsoeditor at large at Plus magazine, the author of A Peacock Among Pigeons, and a gay man living with HIV. (@IamTylerCurry)