The article below is written by a friend and fellow therapist, Kyle Karalash, as it didn't feel quite right to me to speak about PRIDE as a cisgender, heterosexual female. I appreciate and admire the courage he had to write this article and hope you all find it as powerful as I do.
PRIDE month is a powerful time of the year filled with support, resilience, love, and celebration of life. It feels incredible to stand on the street and look around to see a number of people and businesses flaunting their rainbows, raising awareness, and promoting change.
But PRIDE isn’t just a time to recognize progress and honour diverse human existence; it’s a time to recognize past and current injustices against LGBTQ2+ people and our ongoing fight for existence. If you recall, June was chosen as one way to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969 (which you can read more about here). Fifty years later, the battle to live without fear of discrimination, violence, and injustice continues.
But who am I to talk about PRIDE?
I identify as a gay white male entering his late twenties. Born in a small, close-knit community, I’m the youngest of three sons in a working class, divorced family of European decent. I have the ability to “pass” as straight in some situations when needed but my mannerisms often “give me away.” I am no stranger to violence and discrimination and am unfortunately familiar with how cruel people can be when you do not match their preconceived ideas of what a man should be.
I knew I was gay at an early age. I remember tying my blankie around my waist and pretending to be a princess, thinking that I must be a girl because I crushed on boys. I remember my brothers making fun of my ‘girlie habits’ and my step-mother at the time mocking my higher pitched voice when she was drunk. I recall wondering why I couldn’t “man up” and kiss the girl and wondering if my body was broken when I couldn’t get an erection with my girlfriend in high school. I remember knowing that I was gay but not knowing what it was at the time. I remember being confused and lost.
What I did know was I felt ashamed of my identity. I learned to keep quiet and lay low or bare the “consequences.” I learned that being gay was disgusting, unheard of, inappropriate and sinful. I experienced a great deal of taunting and bullying due to my pending status as a gay man. Every time I prepared for the coming-out speech, I feared homelessness and rejection. The truth is, I was already rejected. I did not feel safe or supported for who I was—who I am. Living in fear is not living. Living in fear is living to survive, and I was barely making it. At times I wanted to quit—to escape—but the fear of the unknown kept me going.
This hidden identity, coupled with a build-up of shame and self-hatred, began to eat me alive. My coming-out story wasn’t planned and certainly didn’t preserve my humility. At the time, my self-esteem and confidence had reached an all-time low and depression began to take over. Suffering in silence unless supported by life’s magical numbing formula (vodka), the intoxicated version of myself decided to show off my carelessness to friends during a conversation of “the craziest things we’ve ever done.”
“Watch this,” I said as I called my mother standing on the street in the middle of the night.
I was told that something like the following came out of my mouth: “Hey mom, why do you hate me? Don’t tell me you don’t, you hate gay people and I’m one of them so… peace out.” And then I passed out. (To say the next morning was awkward is an understatement.)
I thought that coming out would be the “fix-all” to the situation. We are told that we will feel relieved and supported and that any mental illnesses will magically fade away once we accept who we are. Instead, the next few years were even harder: I had to face the consequence of being gay in a straight world without understanding any of it.
I remember the exact moment that a McDonald’s fountain drink hit my back as a car drove by, the driver yelling at me. I remember lying to my mother, telling her that I broke my windshield when in reality someone decided to leave a note of the word ‘faggot’ and a crack from a rock. I remember feeling scared to walk home by myself because “what if I walk gay?” I remember being told during a visit to the emergency room that I did not need my partner in the room with me because “I am better if he goes away.” And I remember being told that I don’t get to donate blood because “gay blood has diseases in it.” I’d like to say that these situations get better and fade out eventually, but they exist all around us. The difference is now I have the strength to speak up and stand for my rights and general existence.
I remember the exact moment that I felt I had the right to live in this world as an equal. A sociology professor at university with a passion for inclusion and the natural ability to care about their students saved my life without knowing. Their courses taught me resilience and gave me hope. In the very first lecture, this professor introduced themselves and discussed safer space—the key word here being safer because safe simply does not exist in many areas of the world.
This professor was the beginning of my PRIDE. The next four years became an incredible journey of self-discovery where I also gained the courage to dive into the role of an ally and member of the queer community. With this new courage, I realized my mission to become the support that I needed and did not have access to. Each piece of new knowledge—combined with anger and resentment—fuelled my motivation to empower people like myself.
Today, I work as a therapist and am committed to creating a platform of therapy that is accessible, affirming and supportive of LGBTQ2+ people. This goal is not always met with support and acceptance, which speaks more about others’ being than mine. By using my own experiences, I continue to challenge barriers to promote more inclusive language, create safer spaces, and encourage proper training for competent care and treatment.
So what does PRIDE mean to me?
It’s an ongoing effort to stand together so we can live authentically. It is the courage within us to make a difference and be heard, a platform to share our stories, to acknowledge trauma, and continue fighting systemic and societal oppression. PRIDE is a reminder that we did not get this far only to get this far. During PRIDE, we remember and honour the right to exist without persecution. That no one gets to define what love looks and feels like for you. That LGBTQ2+ stories are significant. I celebrate because I survived. I attend PRIDE because I attend to the lives of my clients, my friends, my family, my colleagues, my interactions. That being said, I attend in precaution. While I am hopeful, I remain aware that while many are accepting and celebrating with me, there are still people that want to take that away. The fear never vanishes, but with support and resilience we can overpower it.
Tips for Honouring Pride:
1. Check-in on your people: Some people need more support during this time. Don’t assume that they are excited to celebrate. Don’t assume that they aren’t. It’s okay to ask how they are doing.
2. Listen to the stories: Remember, PRIDE is about acknowledge pain and advocating for humanity.
3. Participate in a pride event: Show your support. Be proud of your participation.
4. Donate to LGBTQ2+ organizations and services.
5. Speak up against discrimination, violence and oppression.
6. Be mindful of language (pronouns, labels).
7. Check your assumptions: don’t assume gender or sexuality.
8. If you’re a business selling pride merchandise, donate the profits to LGBTQ2+ organizations.
9. Educate yourself and those around you. History is important.
10. Teach children that love is love. Teach love and acceptance.
11. Create inclusive space: A pride sticker or flag indicates that you are supportive and inclusive.
12. Volunteer with LGBTQ2+ events, organizations and services.
13. Vote for laws that support LGBTQ2+ rights.
14. Be aware of, and support, LGBTQ2+ services in your community.
15. Help your LGBTQ2+ friends stay safe at events. Create escape plans. Stay connected.