Last month marked a momentous moment for the LGBTQIA+ community as New York City celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the first ever WorldPride hosted in the United States. People from all over the world came to the city to celebrate this beautiful community and to pay their respects for all those who came before us in the fight for Queer Liberation. For the 14th Street Y and Educational Alliance, this was also a momentous occasion as we successfully hosted a curated series of events celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community called LIVE FREE, LOVE FIERCE. EA put on six different events, and its staff went out into the city to shows support at the various NYC sponsored events, such as the AIDS walk and Stonewall Day. This marked the completion of a desire of mine that had been brewing to see the 14th Street Y celebrate the diversity and beauty of the Queer community, truly honoring its motto that this is a place “where all are welcome.”
This series gave silenced voices a place to be heard. These events challenged people to be vulnerable and honest, to share parts of their stories that they might have thought nobody else wanted to hear. Artists, families, writers, activists—they all had a home and space here to fully celebrate their existence. Choreographers created dance pieces, children and parents painted PRIDE murals, and storytellers crafted stories from personal experiences to bring the many facets of the coming out experience to light.
This was a huge moment for me in my journey of self-love and authenticity. I came out six years ago after moving to New York and realized that I couldn’t waste any more time pretending to be someone else. Part of that journey included my piece about sharing your authentic self outwardly in all facets of your life.
When I began coming out to other people, I was working at a job where my boss would frequently tell me how she had been a part of “healing ministries” that helped people overcome homosexuality. I didn’t feel safe sharing my story there, my struggles and questions, or how I was navigating the complexities of what I grappled with. I now work in a place where my job awarded me a grant to make my vision come to fruition, and where my authenticity is celebrated and welcomed as a tool to be accessed to further the vision of this community center. I, for the first time, was able to share these events without fear of rejection or worry of how others might feel from my self-expression on my social media platforms. I am done accommodating other people’s feelings when it comes to representing who I am, so here are some things that I know about myself:
I am strong, thoughtful, and kind. I am slow to speak and patient. I can be anxious and wary when fully presenting myself out of a worry of how other people might perceive me, but I’m working on that. I am gay, and I am challenging myself every day to live authentically in an effort to give myself the happiness I deserve. And as I learned this past month, that is only going to happen by me LIVING FREELY and LOVING FIERCELY.
June has become known for PRIDE month celebrations. You can walk around the city and see the rainbow flags waving everywhere. Commercials are more inclusive, ads are representative of more couples, and you usually see a LOT more glitter. You see the city come alive with so much love, but it is important to remember that PRIDE doesn’t stop at the end of the month of June, and it’s here year-round at the 14Y.
Join the 14th Street Y as we celebrate PRIDE 365 days of the year. For a limited time, you can stop by our 14th Street Y shop and get a free “LIVE FREE, LOVE FIERCE” PRIDE t-shirt with the purchase of any item. Items must be purchased at the 14Y Service Desk.