“Am I a bad gay?”
I ask myself that a lot, especially during LGBTQ Pride Month, when I feel guilty about not participating in the NYC Pride March or related festivities.
This year, I feel particularly conflicted. It’s a big milestone, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots where a group of “sickos” and “deviants” stood up for their civil liberties and paved the way for LGBTQ rights, and New York is hosting WorldPride. People are coming all the way from Tunisia and Taiwan, yet I struggle to get on a 35-minute train from my Manhattan suburb. Again I ask, “Does that make me a bad gay?”
If this were 10 years ago when I was a 31-year old single gay guy living in Harlem, I’d be in the thick of things on Christopher Street. Yet I didn’t really want to go then either. I would have rather stayed home and watched The Golden Girls, but I didn’t want to miss out on hanging out with friends or potentially meeting a great guy. Mostly, I spent the day fighting through crowds to walk down the sidewalk (which totally stressed me out) and drinking in packed bars, where I stood in a corner watching my friends pick up the great guy I was too shy to talk to and felt like a complete Dorothy Zbornak.
In retrospect, I don’t think drinking my face off at Stonewall did anything to pay homage to LGBTQ history or further social causes. Rather than feeling pride in myself or others, I just felt nauseated and hungover. As I’ve grown older, gotten married, moved to the suburbs, this kind of partying holds even less appeal. I like hanging at home with a Poodle and Yorkie in my lap and my husband’s head on my shoulder. This is what makes me feel safe, happy, and, yes, proud.
So maybe I’m not a bad gay, just a boring one. Yet I think I’ve finally understood that there’s a difference between celebrating “Pride” and being proud of who I am. And rather than berate myself for not going to the march this year, I prefer to have my own “introvert pride.” If you’re like me, here are some things you can do, either by yourself or with your friends and loved ones:
Go to an LGBTQ-themed movie or show. I recommend seeing The Prom before it closes.
Spend the day bingeing Tales of the City or Pose on Netflix.
Read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time or Maurice by E.M Forster, important pieces of LGBT literature.
Write a thank you note to a family member, teacher or someone who supported you as you came out.
Have quality time with your significant other–however, you choose to spend it.
Visit the “Stonewall 50” exhibit at the New York Historical Society.
No matter what you choose, remember that this weekend is about both celebrating the LGBT community and yourself as an individual. Happy Pride, but more importantly: may you always be proud of who you are.
If you want to do some extroverted celebrating of NYC Pride, WorldPride 2019, and #Stonewall50, see a complete list of events at https://2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org/
Mark Jason Williams is an award-winning playwright and essayist. In addition to Honeysuckle, his work is published by The Washington Post, Salon, The Denver Post, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Out, The Daily Dot, Stuff, and Good Housekeeping. For more about Mark, please visit markjasonwilliams.com.