The Gay Pride experience has evolved for me in many ways over the last 20 years. Initially, I remember being 20 and nervous that someone, who didn't know about my sexual orientation, might see me at a rally -- though I was probably covered in glitter. Subtlety has never been my strong suit. Then, in the 90s in New York, Pride became less about the concept of pride and more about the parties. Not as political, but fun as hell. Personally, as I enter my 40s, Pride has a much deeper meaning. I understand the purpose of the events around the world, from the massive New York extravaganzas to the tiny marches in some of the most homophobic countries. For many of us it takes real guts and bravery to even be present. I applaud that! I've been to Prides in Sydney, Copenhagen, Madrid, Amsterdam, and virtually every major city in the U.S. They are all amazing in their own unique way.
Now, when I march in a parade or dance at the Heritage of Pride Pier Dance, I am oozing pride. I love to watch the different groups express themselves in the parade, from the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] policemen and firefighters to the drag queens and the muscle boys. My favorite group is PFLAG -- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. My mother joined PFLAG when I was in my 20s and I always get a little teary-eyed when I see the unconditional love expressed so boldly.
My message this year is about being proud of all aspects of your being. Sexual orientation is a huge issue for many of us and we still face ongoing issues regarding homophobia. But my hope is that we can all get closer to loving and embracing ALL aspects of ourselves and support the diversity in each other. I have been very vocal about my HIV+ status for many years now and for many people being HIV+ is still shrouded in shame and denial because of the powerful stigma that we face.
Of course, it's easy to say the words, "Be proud of your HIV+ status." But it's not so easy to really conquer and believe that. I also want to clarify that I don't mean to glorify HIV infection. That's not what this is about. I mean that if you are HIV+, the sooner you get OK with it, fight against the moral judgment that society may place on you, and be proud that you are taking control of your health, the happier you will be. I don't have the luxury of being HIV-. So, after 20 years of living with the disease, the best thing I did is change my perspective on my status. I no longer judge myself or see myself as tainted or "less than." I am proud of everything I have accomplished while, and including, living with HIV. I hope I can be a role model to others who are struggling to get to the same place.
This year, I am participating in Boston Pride on Saturday, June 12, through my educational campaign in partnership with Merck, Living Positive by Design. Living Positive by Design seeks to combat the stigma associated with HIV by engaging people in thoughtful conversation about the disease. Through the program, I highlight the importance of having a positive outlook on life while effectively managing HIV.
I will also be attending many events at New York Pride. I will probably walk in the parade in some capacity and I will definitely be attending the Heritage of Pride Pier Dance, which I look forward to every year. I hope to see many of my LGBT brothers and sisters out and about!! Happy Pride 2010!!