Those of you who have followed me over the years know how the San Diego Pride Parade changed my life some 17 years ago.
I was 4 months from being 50 years old when I sat along 6th Avenue and watched with such awe these gay people living their lives openly. Damn the consequences, damn their families, damn their jobs, damn the police, damn their government…
There they were – out and proud – celebrating their lives.
When the big gay flag came around the corner, I was simply overcome. My sweet Susan insisted I walk under the flag, grab hold of the material, and feel the sense of belonging that comes only from being surrounded by love, acceptance and the colors of the rainbow!
She was right, and that walk under the Big Gay Flag changed my life.
Seventeen years later, I’m still perched on 6th watching The San Diego Pride Parade. Still in awe as I watch the out and proud riding motorcycles, marching in military units, playing in bands, riding on floats, marching with churches and schools and banks. All of them waving and smiling, hugging and wishing every person a Happy Pride.
I came out under the Big Gay Flag 17 years ago. I became one of the out and proud. One of the people striving to make a difference. To change hearts and minds, to stress acceptance, to not leave any one person behind on my journey.
On San Diego Pride Parade Day – I’m one of the wavers and smilers. I’m the one walking up and down the street hugging and wishing everyone a Happy Pride.
Life 17 years later is certainly different than it was that July in 2002. Susan and I are stronger than ever, more in love, more aware of life’s challenges. We are surrounded by an amazing family and special friends who love and support and accept. Thank God Susan insisted all those years ago that I take that walk under that Big Gay Flag.
It changed everything.
This year will be no different. When the Big Gay Flag comes around the corner at the end of the Parade, I will disappear from the curb and make my way under the flag. I will walk for a bit and let the tears flow. I will surround myself in the love and acceptance and the life-changing wonder of those rainbow colors.
I will remind myself of how far I’ve come as a person, and I will renew the promise I made to myself 17 years ago on my first journey under the flag.
“Never go back – ever.”
Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your life is meaningless. Don’t ever, ever listen to those who denigrate, intimidate, bully, or tell you that you must be someone you are not. It’s your life. Not your families, not your church, not your government – It’s your life. Life is too short to be anyone other than who you were born to be.