“What shocked both gays and the straight establishment was that gays had, for once, openly fought back.”

I had a dream last night that I was being bullied.

It was some spoiled kid from my elementary/high school (who later actually¬†came out, I believe). Admittedly, the bullying in question — both the dream and its real-life counterpart — were nothing serious or systematic, but one thing about both incidents (real and subconsciously synthesized) struck me.

I didn’t fight back.

Instead, I learned to hide, to “pass”, to subsume my true identity. I’d let parts of it discreetly shine through — I was a nerd, I liked computers and science fiction, all that — but that certain fascination, that quickening of my heart when I walked past a a good-looking boy in high school… well, I ignored that impulse, pretended it wasn’t there, thought it was anything but what it really was. And for my troubles, I was (limitedly) rewarded: the bullying stopped. In exchange for suppressing who I really was, I was quietly ignored.

But eventually, the elimination of a fundamental part of what it means to be human — to love, to date, to marry, even (yes) to have sex both meaningful and not-so-meaningful — took its toll. From early adolescence right into my twenties, I could never remember what dreams I had after I woke up. It’s as if my subconscious had switched itself off.

Then, one snowy February night, after a traumatizing friendship and falling out with a fetching lad in college (nothing happened, alas, except to me, internally), I sat beside my parents’ cat on the sofa at two-thirty in the morning and laid the truth bare.

The cat’s reaction was predictably unenthused, but for me it was a revelation — the revelation — that would change the course of my life. But it took time. I was scared — terrified of those feelings that are for many the baptism-by-fire of teenagerhood. I gradually told friends, then siblings, then parents. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began dating. It wasn’t until my very late twenties that I experienced love, if only briefly. It was only in my thirties that I had my first serious, multi-year relationship.

I’ve often mused about the awkwardness of Pride: a combination party and political rally. But, then, maybe that’s the point. Unlike most minoritarian identities, being gay is something that lives dormant inside you, only reaching fruition with the onset of adult emotion. As such, it’s easy to suppress, ignore, wish away, be told doesn’t exist.

Which is why Pride is what it is: a fight for your right not only to party, but to love, marry, form families, be happy with yourself. Proud. That’s what those youths and drag queens, fighting the New York City police at a speakeasy many Junes ago, understood better than so many of us in the mainstream did: that coming out is, for each of us who’ve gone through it, a mini Stonewall inside ourselves to awaken who we truly are.

Happy Pride to all.