Each year during the month of June, the LGBTQ+ community gets together to celebrate Pride. Pride is a month-long celebration with different cities across the United States hosting different LGBTQ friendly events. Most of these events involve festivals or parties at bars. This is typically a time for many to indulge in excessive amounts of alcohol and illicit drugs. Being on probation during Pride month can seem like a punishment to most members of the community. Many believe this is the one time of year they can let loose and truly be queer.
Being in the LGBTQ+ community can seem like a constant battle to be respected for the person you are. The LGBTQ+ community often face social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges that people who identify as heterosexual will never have to deal with. These stressors increase the risk for various behavioral and mental health issues. People in the LGBTQ+ community are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem compared to heterosexuals.
While Pride is promoted as a party, those in the community like me that are sober must find ways to navigate the barrage of parties and festivals centered around drinking. After years of celebrating Pride and mainly drinking (too much) this year being my first sober Pride was not only nerve wrecking but scary as well. Would I have as much fun as before? Will my friends still enjoy my company sober? How could I go to a different Pride every weekend in June and not drink? So many questions ran through my mind leading up to June. Now, after experiencing my first Pride sober, I can say that it is something as a member of the LGBTQ+ community I will always treasure.
Firstly, being sober during Pride allowed me to truly focus on what Pride is all about. Yes, Pride is a celebration of being one’s true authentic self and that is how I always celebrated it. But this year I fully allowed myself to get to the true meaning of Pride. Pride began on June 29th, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Back then it was required by all people to wear at least three articles of clothing that matched their gender assigned at birth. This meant that it was illegal for those identifying as transgender to be their true selves. After years of harassment and abuse at the hands of the NYC police, two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera had had enough and on June 29th, 1969 the riots we would someday celebrate as Pride began.
Now I had always heard the story of Stonewall and knew the names Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, but I did not know the connection to Pride month they had. This year marked the 50th anniversary of those riots. With the ability to go to so many Pride events this month each having some short of history retrospective about Stonewall, I was able to fully engulf myself in the journey of those that came before me. This Pride made me recognize and truly see the lack of respect the trans community especially trans women of color get among our LGBTQ+ community. Without them there might not be a Pride and still we allow our trans sisters to be murdered without a peep. These speakers and installations made me look into myself and see what I can do to give these people in my community the love and respect they deserve.
Secondly, being a part of an organization responsible for running a Pride week was a mountain of a task. One I could not have done if I were still drinking. The events I was in charge of undoubtedly benefited from my sobriety. The events were not only run properly but the response from the community shows how well everything went. I am positive that if I were drinking during our events, they would not have been as much of a success. Anytime one throws an event that the community is going to go to there will always be stressors that come up no matter how prepared you are. This year was no different. Friday night for the drag show and dance I felt like everything that could go wrong was. Usually when I am that stressed, I would run to alcohol to escape. This time around I did not have that security blanket and had to face each dilemma head on. Honestly, I cannot tell you the amount of pride I have in myself because of how I handle each hurdle that got in my way.
Finally, this year at Pride being sober helped me not make mistakes that I would regret later down the line. In previous years, Pride has been my excuse to let my hair down and truly not care what people thought about me. I would wear barely any clothes, drink too much, do whatever drug someone put in front of me, and do whoever was in front of me. I always justified it as being my month or time to do what I wanted. However, I never woke up July 1st feeling proud of how I celebrated my queerness. Also, my behavior turned many people off. My friends would not want to go out with me because they felt like they were always babysitting. This year though being sober I definitely realized a change. Yes, I still wore barely and clothes, but I do not have the regret in the back of my head like previous years. I went out and saw some of the most amazing drag performers of my life and remember every second of it. I was someone my friends wanted to be around this year and make memories with that no one will have to remind me of. These might not seem like big milestones to some but to someone like me who has lived a pretty reckless life, these are small moments I am extremely proud of.
I still do not know what my sobriety will look like in a year. Who knows if I will be drinking during Pride next year or not? What I do know is this. I am continuing to grow and figure out my relationship with not just alcohol but all mind altering substances. I am proud that I was able to stay sober the whole month of Pride. I know now that if I want to abstain from drinking during Pride, I have that power and know how gratifying it is to be sober during this time. Everyone has to make their own choices in life, I just know now that I have the ability to make the best choices for myself.