What Pride Means to Me
By Jay Baldwin
First Time Seeing Myself Represented In A Movie
I remember the first movie I ever saw that featured two queer characters. I was 19 years old, away at college for the first time, and not yet out except to a couple of high school friends back home. I went to the local video store in my small college town, a popular place at the time when the world was years away from streaming services. In a small corner towards the back, I saw a display with a small sign that said “Gay and Lesbian Films”, featuring about 20 movies, mostly VHS, and a couple of DVDs. I was secretly elated, but also afraid. I looked around my shoulder several times, wondering if anyone was going to see me looking at the “gay” movies, worried they would know my secret. But somehow, I mustered up my courage, scrounged up $1.50 from my wallet, and rented “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.”
My Journey Toward Self-Acceptance
I kept returning to that video store that year, and the year after. By the time I graduated college I had rented nearly every movie on that shelf until I had seen some of them twice. I watched the collection grow even bigger, and at some point, I stopped looking over my shoulder when I chose my movie off the shelf and went up to the register to pay. Some of the stories deeply moved me. Some of them were downright bad. But even all these years later, the feeling I experienced is one I believe is universal to all people in the LGBTQIA+ community. It is powerful to see oneself represented in the media, to have a mirror that reflects back an important and valuable part of one’s identity. Knowing that there were people out there who felt like me, looked like me, and had the same desire to be seen as valued members of the LGBTQIA+ community was an integral part of my journey to accepting myself, and being able to embrace my identity.
As Pride Month approaches, streaming services like Netflix and HULU will begin showing their “Pride Collections”, a diverse array of TV Shows, Movies and Documentaries that show a multitude of stories and characters who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are more stories about the LGBTQIA+ community at our fingertips than ever before. And I also know all across our country, there are so many LGBTQIA+ young people still looking over their shoulder as I once did, wondering if it’s safe to be themselves, looking for stories that represent them.
What Pride Means To Me
To me, Pride means being known for our beautiful, complex, and nuanced LGBTQIA+ identities and where we are in our journeys. Pride means being represented. Pride means sharing our stories so that others may know they are not alone. So, to everyone in our community: Whether you aren’t ready or able to come out yet, you’ve just come out, or you’ve been out and proud for years – I see you, I know you, and I am glad you are here.