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Denver’s PrideFest has been an event I’ve only ever dreamed of attending—until last year. I realized I was queer through watching Ellen DeGeneres and researching Pride festivals, so I couldn’t wait to actually get to one in person.

I remember longing for the feeling of welcomeness one would experience at Pride. You see, I knew I was different in a variety of aspects, aside from sexuality. I was not crafted from the same mold as others. Although I was young, I could tell I was different.

My hair is curly while theirs is straight. My parents are not welcome in this country, while theirs are. I’d rather read than go play tag. I love women, while my peers chase sex.

Knowing this, Pride felt like a place of acceptance, a place to get away from hiding and the feeling of loneliness.Where queerness elsewhere was shunned, it was worshiped at Pride. It was a celebration of uniqueness across the spectrum.

My first PrideFest did not go as expected. Being an untrustworthy teen in the eyes of society limits me in being able to drive. My ride to PrideFest was my older sister. Our time of arrival caused us to spend an hour tops before her frustration with the heat became apparent. Using my survival instincts, I chose to fly the heck away before my sister’s anger engulfed her. I love my sister, but I realized it would be better not to bring her next time. That was my hour fix at my first PrideFest.

PrideFest 2018 held better experiences for me— I didn’t bring a hetero with me this time around.

It didn’t start out that way, though. To begin with, my only possible ride to Civic Center Park let me down the day before.

Still, I was fully awake around noon, due to my parents cheering on Mexico’s soccer team on the TV all morning. Passion runs in the family, so my passion for my queers allowed me to get a “yes” to go. That’s a rarity, since my parents don’t trust the world around them. Without a ride, however, my hopes plumited like Germany’s soccer score when they forgot to block the ball. But, again, my passion for queers runs deep, so by 1 p.m. I had secured a ride and was ready to get down to the park.

Unlike many donning rainbow gear, my outfit consisted of items I had found within the wonderful walls of thrift stores. The dull, muted colors of my green flannel were accompanied by my Loteria t-shirt. Alongside my thrift shop aesthetic, I wore worn and comfy black jeans.

Walking through the gates of Civic Center Park, it still felt surreal. The clouds covered the sun and let out sprinkles of rain. To me, the grayscale sky served as a background, making the Prideful colors stand out even more.

Scores of people walking around wearing a variety of outfits or simply embracing their bodies has always been so mesmerizing to me. Even those sitting around one another just talking, laughing, eating, or smoking pot. It’s always so lovely to see people enjoy themselves with those they love, surrounded by an event that practically shouts love and acceptance.

I met up with friends and walked around looking at tents and art. In those moments, I felt pretty okay. My lack of sleep made me feel dizzy and drousy, but I was at PrideFest with people I care about; and that lifted the heaviness of my tired shoulders.

Due to the rain, which seemed to bother some people, we found shelter under a tree. It wasn’t a grand moment, but it was my favorite part of PrideFest. People were dancing around us. I’m not a partier. I’d rather enjoy small talk under trees on rainy Pride days than dance.

Though I embrace a cloudy look most days, even that day, colors radiated within me and the feeling of loneliness ventured away.

The rest of Pride consisted of a high calorie intake until heading home—a  part of Pride no one should miss. I’d call that my second favorite part of PrideFest 2018. But it’s a distant second.