In this week’s creative nonfiction essay, Baltimore writer Danielle Ariano says she wasn’t always loud and proud about her lesbian status — even now, 13 years after coming out, she admits to a few mixed feelings.
Pride is a word that has always evoked certain images in my mind: a father looking on after he’s let go the back of his child’s bike seat for the very first time or a teary-eyed mother watching her son or daughter walk across a stage to receive a diploma. It’s an emotion that always connects to some sort of accomplishment, something that calls for celebration, something you can’t wait to announce to the world, to scream from the rooftops. Which is why, when I began the process of coming out 13 years ago, the idea of gay pride seemed like nothing more than an oxymoron. It was a phrase similar to those such as random order, small crowd, alone together, definite possibility, a phrase that got thrown around often, but in reality was impossible. Proud seemed like the last word I would ever use to describe my feelings surrounding the discovery of my sexuality.
On the contrary, the moment I realized I was gay I swore to myself that I would never tell another human being and I promptly went out to a bar and made out with a boy from the Naval Academy. I might be gay, I thought, but I’m never going to be gay. It was an important distinction that seemed perfectly logical, until many months later when the manager at the restaurant where I was waitressing put her hand on my knee and leaned in to kiss me. In that moment I knew that I was going to be gay because nothing had ever made me feel the way that her kiss did. With great reticence, I began to tell people about my sexuality. None of the conversations began with my saying, “I have some really great news to share…” The notion that I would ever feel proud of being a homosexual was laughable.