by Korie Houston
Memories of Pride
Houston we have a problem. Memories. Traversing down these old paths of familiar stories and moments in time can be such a beautiful thing. But for me it’s just a reminder of times that no longer exist. Whether it was a part of your life you wish to hold forever or something you just hope you can forget, it’s impossible to live a life where every one of those moments is something precious.
You may be wondering why I’m writing something so somber in lieu of just talking about the beauty of Pride. But that’s just it, the memory I’m talking about is all encompassed in Pride. In a time when I can sit here and talk about all of the ways this time holds such special meaning to me and so many other people, I also have associations with it tied to a broken heart and the experiences of loss.
From a place of privilege I say that every day of my life feels like I’m living out and proud and the parade is just a small part of it for me.
I went to my first San Diego Pride in July of 2017. As someone who lives with a fear of large crowds, the anxiety I felt melted away with the warm reception from a group of people who welcomed me into their home and gave me a spot right there on the parade route. I danced, I laughed and I fell deeper in love with a person who is no longer in my life. I thought, this is what people fought for. The ability for every single one of us in this community to have the ability to just celebrate our lives and bask in our existence like everyone else.
I wore these brilliant rainbow wings paired with metallic shorts and a rainbow bandana. I loved every second of feeling like an angel in this crowd of people who were showing off every facet of their personalities to celebrate love, life and resilience. My first Pride was an experience I will cherish forever but at the same time it’s a moment I can no longer have again. It’s lost in time, in photographs and my memories. Every year after that I sought to make each celebration more memorable than the last.
Working at Baja Betty’s ensured I was helping other people create memories. Creating a contingent to March in the parade with UC San Diego has continued to help me find solace and comfort, knowing that I was marching with people who have never had this experience before. As I said, being out has never been truly hard for me, but knowing that we can all be a part of these moments where someone is taking their first step into being the most authentic version of themself is something so priceless and fulfilling, but why do I sometimes feel so empty when it’s over?
This year will be the first pride I’m experiencing as a single person. The feelings I’m navigating surrounding this are tied to a love, a life and a memory that no longer exists in my present. On one hand, I am excited to continue the traditions I’ve created for myself, creating a space to bring joy to others. But within these spaces it’s hard to not feel alone. Crowds of people coming together to celebrate the fact that we get to be here. That people went through these hardships for us to celebrate and remember now. That our community is STILL going through turbulence and legislation aimed to scale back the rights of the very people who created these movements for us. A celebration of just being in community is so beautiful and yet it’s hard to not always feel that something is missing.
This Pride month I’ve celebrated what it means for me to just be myself. Navigating what it means for me to find solace in the loneliness; but I don’t really know what that looks like. Now more than ever is the time we should all come together. But I’m also tired of being reminded of things that once were and can no longer be. So I ask, “How do I create and curate new memories that won’t feel so isolating? How do I live a life worth living when at times I feel in this community we equally have to live in the moment for each other and for those who don’t get to experience this moment in time.
Life is a series of complex emotions and when it comes to Pride, I just want to be happy. There’s a euphoric feeling that stems from seeing people have these experiences of being a part of something bigger than one individual. A feeling of joy that some get to only dream of. I believe in love, in healing, and in the fight for us to just be who we dare to be. We dare to be ourselves and that’s powerful enough. That’s the memory I choose to hold onto.
San Diego Pride is important to me because as a love letter to our community, I want people to see that being out doesn’t have to be scary. It can be liberating and create a sense of belonging. Even in those painful memories I can find comfort in knowing I got to experience both the love and the heartbreak that people at Stonewall fought to make happen. I can wear whatever I damn well please and boldly say this is who I am and I’m not going anywhere.
Moving past this somber note I promised myself a long time ago I would never compromise myself for other people. I want to say thank you to those who were a part of my first Pride here – they helped me live my life. They pushed me to see the most authentic version of myself that could exist in one place and time. I’m grateful to them for seeing me before I truly saw myself. Inside the isolation I now feel, I also know who I’m living for: myself.
I always put others first and yet I need to do this for me. I want to recapture and live for the magic that I experienced just a few years ago. As I write this, in many ways it’s closing a chapter on a life that is no longer alive but all of those previous Pride seasons allow me to shine a light on a new one. Pride for myself and the Pride I help create and shape for others.
This San Diego Pride, please take care of one another. No matter where we all come from or the experiences we’ve had, remember that this community is more than just the memories we make. Remember that there’s a lot of love here and that we should cherish it. I say this more as a reminder for myself that I am more than the experiences that have shaped me. I’m more than a community builder. I’m my own person who celebrates Pride for my own reasons as much as I am here to support others.
I love you and happy Pride San Diego.
–Korie Houston is a local social justice advocate. Reach him at [email protected].