My Stages of PRIDE
June 1, 2010
So this month is Pride Month on TheBody.com and, after thinking about the topic, I realized that I went through many stages of Pride in my 31 years.
Stage 1. NO PRIDE
Like many young, gay men, I was teased in school all the time. I was called fag, faggot, queer and so on. So I always viewed being gay as a negative thing. Something people wouldn't accept. It was something I thought I couldn't accept either.
I came out to my family at the age of 17. I'd just graduated high school and thought that I had to hide my sexuality due to my Catholic school education. I was taught that being gay was a sin and I was going to hell. So I felt ashamed and hated being gay and, even worse, I hated being me.
My parents accepted and loved me, but asked that I not be so open about it to others. I understood that my parents grew up and experienced life in different times. They asked me to be myself, but not advertise it. I respected that, because they thought they were protecting me and, in a way, they were. People can be mean. So I didn't have any pride in being gay right away. There were no gay role models to look up to. I do remember watching Ellen (These Friends of Mine) on television and seeing her character come out as a lesbian. Shortly after that, the show was canceled.
I swore I would never be that gay guy that would have a rainbow sticker on his car, or attend a Gay Pride event. I thought these events and parades were all about flaunting your sexuality. I was too ashamed of who I was to do that.
Stage 2. Scoring Some Pride
In 2002, I was desperate for real friends. Most of the people I met at bars were never really interested in friendship. I quickly discovered it was usually all about sex. I was in a relationship for a long time and shut out most of my old friends at that time in my life.
I then discovered something that would change the course of my life completely. I was online one day and searched for gay soccer teams. The search results brought up the Philadelphia Falcons -- a gay soccer team in Philly. I was so excited to know that I wasn't the only gay guy who loved soccer.
I remember driving to my first practice not knowing what to expect. I arrived at the fields and had people introduce themselves to me right away. They asked, "What position do you play?" and "How long have you been playing?" I instantly had a new circle of friends by the end of the practice. These people were friends and teammates, but they also turned into a brotherhood and sisterhood of support for me. They let me see that there was no reason to hide my sexuality. No reason to not be me.
We even traveled as friends and teammates to San Francisco and then Copenhagen, Denmark, to play in the IGLFA (International Gay & Lesbian Football Association) tournaments together. I was shocked to discover that so many countries sent teams to these tournaments.
My team wasn't just about playing soccer, they also participated in community events, such as Pride and Outfest. I remember going to my first Pride event with the team. It was something I never experienced before. We set up a table with our club's info and recruited new teammates. It felt so good to be so honest for the first time. I don't even think my teammates knew how big of a deal it was for me to be there. I now had gay friends that were truly my friends. For the first time, I saw being gay as a positive thing.
Stage 3. I Got Pride
Now I see Gay Pride in a whole new light. At the age of 31, I see life with a new pair of glasses. After receiving my HIV diagnosis in 2001, I lived in a denial stage for five years. One day, I just said, "Screw it! I can only be the best me that I can be." This not only shifted my thoughts on my HIV status, but also my thoughts about being gay. I discovered that pride is a lot more than just letting the world know you're gay. It is about being proud of who you are and accepting your sexuality.
The purpose of the Pride movement is to remove the feelings of shame or fear that some have about their sexuality or gender identity. It is an event that brings the gay community together to discuss important issues like gay marriage or HIV/AIDS and find out about local events happening in the city. It shows those who attend that they are not alone.
I haven't been to a Pride event in a few years, but my work in the HIV/AIDS community will change that. I have already come out about my sexuality and HIV status publicly on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and POZIAM. The response from family and friends has been very supportive.
Read more of POZIAM, Robert Breining's blog, at TheBody.com.
This article originally appeared in TheBody.com's Pride 2010 special section.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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