I published a personal piece in OUT FRONT’s jam-packed, June Pride issue called “Likes Boys: Wearing Pride on Your Sleeve,” where I explored my teenage coming-out story and reflected on my upcoming visit to Denver’s PrideFest and my first Pride Month celebration together with my community since 2011.
I opened the health app on my iPhone and scrolled left until I saw an almost 25,000-step spike on June 15 to remind me the exact date for this column. Pride Weekend was an adventure, but damn, was it also exhausting. Needless to say, this weekend was meant for a follow-up report.
PrideFest itself felt surreal. I was wearing a pink crop-top with the Barbie logo across the chest, perhaps an homage to my hot pink shirt with LIKES BOYS plastered over the front from 2011. I spent most of the day trying to recall whether or not the last PrideFest I attended was so massive, ultimately deciding it couldn’t have been.
In retrospect, PrideFest itself was one of the more minor footnotes of my weekend. What was most exciting about the festival itself was witnessing so many LGBTQ people convening together, unapologetically, in one spot, joyfully screaming through our colorful costumes and presence that we’re here; we’re proud, and we’re definitely not going anywhere. I marveled over the diversity of the large crowd, which often overflowed onto 16th Street Mall, Capitol Hill, and Colfax, directly confronting the city with our pride and presence all weekend.
One of my queer lifelines from life back in Fort Collins and partner in crime for the day, Chelsea, accompanied me to Larimer Lounge to rock out with punk band and queer and feminist icons, Tacocat that evening. The surge prices for a ride back were fairly steep when the show got out at midnight, so we hunkered down and walked back to my apartment from RiNo, over a three-mile trip.
Walking down the stretch of sidewalk parallel to Larimer Street that Saturday summer evening, I remember thinking to myself I was glad I was in a plain, purple v-neck and shorts, having changed out of the form-fitting, hot pink Barbie crop top. I thought about other people getting on the train or walking home after dark, stashing their rainbow flags and covering their attire.
A resounding point of my initial column came to mind, wearing “pride on my sleeve” as a queer adult but also having the privilege to comfortably present myself to the world day-to-day, a luxury many folks in our community aren’t as easily afforded.
On Sunday, I met two new Denver friends and some of their queer buddies for dinner after I got off work and they finished their second day at PrideFest. I was dressed in standard attire at a table of wild, over-the-top outfits.
As the group prepared for the next item on their agenda for the night about three hours later, I lamented to my friend about my lack of energy, stone-cold sober and very fatigued; it was time to go home.
So much of the initial marvel of PrideFest from that 17-year-old was lost, but I realized that was kind of a magical message about my current life. I found and settled into the queer community that I was always chasing; from the awkward teen boy and usually the only queer person in the friend group, to the young adult living in Fort Collins and searching for community, to my current self in Denver, abundantly celebrating surrounding myself with queer folks every day.
I realized that PrideFest clearly wouldn’t carry the same weight for me today as it did to the 17-year-old, whose experience in the queer community was mostly online aside from that one June 2011 weekend.
My life as a queer man in Denver today looks far different than I would’ve expected, but just as abundant as I could have dreamed. The queer teenager might scoff when you tell him he is happy single and still without a boyfriend, and I’m sure my college self would be floored if you told him his eager wait for plentiful gay bars will be tarnished by a 2018 sobriety decision.
Pride has become a daily endeavor for me.
It’s writing about and connecting with queer folks around the city. It’s dating and sex being accessible and explorative in way I’ve never experienced. It’s walking up and down the streets of Cap Hill to abundant rainbow flags on the posts outside, and abundant rainbow people to go with. It’s surrounding myself with queer friendships, people who understand what it’s like, for better or worse, to be part of this community in the world and who lift each other up in a world that often tries to tear us down.
My June column put a lot of weight on PrideFest this year, when in reality, I spent less than four hours there sandwiched between the other items on our day-long agenda. It wasn’t about PrideFest but the opportunity to stop and reflect on how much has progressed for myself and my queerness. For many in our community, it’s a stop-and-breathe moment to celebrate our strength and resilience and remind ourselves to never take our progress for granted.
I’m lucky to live in a place that allows me to further cultivate this precious part of my identity and eagerly celebrate Pride every minute I can.
Regardless, I’m pleased to say this was my first and last eight-year hiatus from PrideFest and a proper Pride Month celebration, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds among my abundant, queer Denver family.