Embracing Pride Authentically, Fully, and Wholeheartedly
Two LGBTQIA+ students reflect on their journeys to celebrating their identities
During the COVID-19 lockdown, I was given time to come into alignment with my true self, my values, my preferences, and more. It was a long journey of undoing the ideals and identity that had been projected onto me from my parents and my culture. Ultimately, self-prioritization and inner healing led me to unconditionally embrace my androgynous pronouns. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up with a LGBTQIA+ role model for gender fluidity. However, it inspired me to educate myself and seek healthy sources of information. Once I got to the University, I was able to express myself without discrimination or question. With the help of my friends, I began seeking out experiences that would be hallmarks to my journey of self-worth and happiness in expressing and celebrating my identity.
Pride can look different and carry unique meanings to every member: celebrating Pride can range from being an ally to being an advocate. I celebrate my gender fluidity by getting ready–even if it means changing clothes more than once in a day. I honor my pronouns and my identity when I validate myself and when I share this intimate information with others. Actively listening, participating, and sharing experiences and resources is how I choose to celebrate Pride.
You don't need to rush to discover yourself and put a label on yourself to belong or be considered valid. Give yourself compassion during every moment of your journey. If at any point your identity alters, remember that change is okay. Change is a part of being human and every self-discovery should be celebrated as you are coming in alignment to your true self and what makes you unique and content. You are worth being loved, seen, heard, supported, and celebrated. Be visible to yourself. Explore your preferences and who you are in a healthy manner–in a way that is safe to yourself and others. Make new friends in the LGBTQIA+ community and become involved with their experiences. You may resonate with some things and that which you don't, you can discover a different label for.
When I think about Pride, I can’t help but reflect on my journey to this point in my life. Growing up, I always felt a little disconnected from my peers. Talking about boys, crushing on celebrities, and going on dates always felt uncomfortable for me, but I was so desperate to fit in, and growing up in rural areas of Wyoming and Colorado, it didn’t always feel safe to be myself. When I started getting into music and got involved in choir and orchestra, it was the first time I felt like I was able to be fully myself, even if I wasn’t quite sure who that was yet.
When I got to college, I started dating women and finally felt like I wasn’t pretending. I met my girlfriend in the fall of my sophomore year, and for the first time I understood what people meant when they talked about falling in love. Everything was so easy and natural, and I felt so comfortable with her in a way I never had before. I finally felt like I had found who I am and felt like I could truly be myself.
Heading into my first Pride, I wish I could tell my younger self that there is no right or wrong way to be gay. For so long I felt like I had to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and just change who I was to fit a stereotype I had in my head. But at the end of the day, the people who love me in my life love me for who I truly am, and they remind me that I don’t need to change. I’m forever grateful for my loved ones who have always loved and supported me, in every step of this journey. I also owe the life I have to the queer men, women, and nonbinary activists and allies who came before me, who never stopped fighting for our rights. I’m proud of who I am, and I’m so grateful for this life.
About the Authors:
Karma Tellez is going into their fourth year at the University of Nevada, Reno and is majoring in Criminal Justice. They are a second year Resident Assistant at the Nevada Living Learning Community and serve as the Community Outreach Coordinator for UNR’s Volunteer club. They are involved with various dance clubs both on campus and off campus. When they are off-campus, they are engaging with the Reno Police Department’s Ride Along Program or providing support at Kings Row Community Life Center.
Shailynn Winter is going into her third year at the University of Nevada Reno as a Music Education major. She is involved in Residential Life, working as a Resident Assistant for the Liberal Arts Living Learning Community, and is active in the music community on campus.