Reflections on my first Pride, and where I am now.
I attended my first Gay Pride in Baltimore, when I was 21. It was 2004. I was living with my mother 20 miles west of the city, where I grew up. I had been sober for a year and just beginning to pick up the pieces of a life I had nearly exterminated with drugs (pot, coke, heroin) and alcohol (my mother’s boxed wine, mostly). My inability to reconcile the antigay religious doctrine of my fundamentalist Christian childhood with my homosexuality was what fueled my substance abuse, which began when I was 12, just after my family left the cult I grew up in. I’d stay up all night, kneeling before the crucifix that hung above my bed, begging God for forgiveness. If I repented enough, then maybe He would spare me from the punishment I knew awaited me. The hours of prayer brought little, if any, relief. So I drank, and eventually smoked, snorted, and shot up.
At Pride, I wandered the cordoned-off block at North Charles and West Eager Streets, in the heart of what was once Baltimore’s gay neighborhood, Mount Vernon. At a jewelry booth, I bought a silver necklace that held five rainbow-colored rings. I met a guy whose name I can’t remember. We flirted, went to Club Hippo (now a CVS) and danced together. Later, in his car, he introduced me to Kylie and Dannii Minogue’s music. I drove home that night feeling hopeful, like maybe I could find happiness in this life. But the feeling proved fleeting; at home, my empty twin bed awaited me, where the fear and the shame poked me awake as I tried to sleep, coaxing out of me another round of prayers, no pot or alcohol to make it all stop.
When I was 20, I was ignorant about the history of Pride, and incredibly naive about politics. I had yet to vote in a presidential election. I knew nothing about Lawrence v. Texas, which had been decided the year before and which had decriminalized sodomy in the U.S. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts was totally off my radar. For me, I just wanted to be able to kiss a man without despair. I wanted to experience a postcoital bliss uninterrupted by images of hellfire and of a voice that said I had done something gravely sinful, a voice that was my own but which I mistook for God’s.
I’ll confess I didn’t become politically aware until late 2011, when I fell in love with the man who would become my husband. Until that time, I remember thinking that I wanted gay marriage legalized for equality’s sake, but that marriage was an antiquated institution created for economic purposes. Besides, there was no such thing as a “happy marriage,” anyway. Why would gay people want any part of that?
In retrospect, I also believed what religious fundamentalists espoused: gay people weren’t capable of the type of love that was supposed to sustain a marriage.
After I fell in love, all of that changed. Serendipitously, the Maryland state legislature passed a marriage equality bill in early 2012. It would be appealed via public referendum and voted on at the November ballot box. Suddenly, I had a hat in the ring. So I got involved.
Before Election Day 2012, I had done a lot of work on myself: years of mental health therapy, AA attendance, and sobriety. But nothing was as transformative as watching the final numbers come in and learning that the majority of voting Marylanders supported my right to marry to the man I love. I felt like I had been accepted into the human fold. Maybe it’s a shame that my self-worth depended so much upon what the majority thought of me. But I wanted to be a part of the world. I wanted to be accepted and included. I believed—and still believe—in what Western liberalism had built.
Volunteering for Maryland’s marriage equality campaign—and for a subsequent transgender rights legislation campaign—prompted my decision to finally return to college to earn my bachelor’s degree. I wanted to become a journalist and an activist. In 2016, I was accepted to Columbia University and my husband and I moved to New York.
In 2017, I interned for an LGBT-rights organization. My husband and I marched with the organization in New York’s Pride parade. It was my first New York Pride. And it was the last Pride that I felt any sort of real connection to the LGBT activist community.
I now count myself as part of another “activist” community, mostly of writers and thinkers, that operates more clandestinely. It is a group—a growing group—of straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and detransitioned people, people who are concerned about civil rights, yes, but who are more concerned with the truth. In fact, we see that the preservation of civil rights depends entirely on the truth.
And the truth is, what was once a movement that prioritized civil rights has become an authoritarian, illiberal mob that espouses Marxist propaganda even as it shills for the vastly expanding medical industrial complex—the clinics, physicians, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies whose profits are soaring due to the skyrocketing number of young people demanding experimental drugs, hormones, and surgeries that leave them sterile and in many cases sexually dysfunctional—or else (so says the exploitative media narrative that misrepresents statistics) they’ll kill themselves.
Tragically, as many of us are aware, a large number of these young people, if they were simply validated in their gender-nonconformity and atypical desires and left in peace, would grow up to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
It is a new form of conversion therapy on a colossal scale.
And yet, it’s time to be Proud?
As I write this, I realize that I am proud. Because, just like I had the guts to stand up to religious fundamentalism, I am now standing up to a new form of ideological fundamentalism, one that, once again, insists I feel ashamed of being a “cis gay man.”
In fact—and this is something that I will expand upon in my forthcoming memoir—by speaking out about the harms of gender ideology, I have developed the strength to root out dogma from my life once and for all. For the first time in my life, I am unafraid to think—and to speak—for myself.
No more haunted nights.
No more endless repenting for a salvation that will never come.
I am finally at peace with who I am.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Benjamin Boyce, the host of a YouTube channel and the podcast, Calmversations. We spoke about my op-ed for Newsweek, religion, sobriety, mental health, my experience at Columbia, and a bunch of other things. Check out the video below, or follow this link to the podcast episode.
Thank you for reading and subscribing! Much more coming soon.