Gay Pride Then: 2004

June 20, 2004 (I'm pretty sure that was the date)

Though I waited a number of years before coming out to become the openly gay man I am today, I never tried to maintain an image as a straight man. Rather than try to "cover up" by dating girls, or talking about them and commenting on every attractive girl I possibly could, I simply avoided the subject. The result was that either people assumed I was straight (which was I guess what I was aiming for), or else maybe gay, but unable to draw a real conclusion.

In my entire life, I've only said the phrase "I'm straight" one time. One. And I said it at none other than the first Gay Pride event I ever attended. Go figure.

Summer 2004. After more than a full year in school nonstop, I decided to escape for the summer. I left the grand state of New Mexico and headed out to Minnesota to try my hand as a camp counselor. But before I left, a Deaf gay friend of mine was chatting with me, and mentioned that there would be a Deaf juggler performing at Gay Pride. Being a juggler (don't ask: I'm working on a blog about that as we speak), I was thrilled to hear that she would be performing, and so, the day before I was to fly out to Minnesota, I headed out for Gay Pride.

Let me point out here that, at this point, I'm well aware of my attractions, but have not yet come out to myself as gay. So on that sunny Saturday, I jumped in the car and drove out to the state fair grounds, for my first ever Gay Pride event.

Upon arrival, I'm shocked to see the masses of people, and how much fun everyone seems to be having. Rather than wander around and take everything in, however, I head directly over to where my friend is, and where I have the safety net of friends and acquaintances in the Deaf community. Once there, I never stray from the group.

I find my friend, but learn that the juggler had to cancel, as her flight was delayed and cancelled. Disappointed, but still determined to be social, I stay and enjoy everyone's company. I meet a number of new people, all of whom are nice and quite fun to chat with. After a while, I end up chatting with a Deaf man who had traveled from Colorado with a group of friends and happened to be in the area. Suddenly, the friendly chatter becomes flirtatious, and I realize that the man, apparently quite taken by me, is coming on to me. Unsure of how to handle this situation, I say the first thing that comes to mind:

"Um, I'm straight."

Strategically speaking, this was extremely effective. Only it served to cease communication altogether with the man, and to later confuse yours truly all the more, later on.

Looking back now, I see this day as a sort of catalyst: a cause for introspection. It was there that I first saw, with my own eyes, the power of love. I saw just what it could mean to truly accept oneself, and to celebrate the life we're given. It took a great deal more time, and far too much sadness, before I was able to realize this for myself. But I have changed, at long last, and each and every day, I am profoundly thankful.