Every year, in New York City, on the last Sunday in June, thousands, flock to the city, and the famous Fifth Avenue, and the Avenue of the Americas come alive with the splendor and pageantry of celebrating GAY PRIDE.
Yes, to those of you who are not familiar with “Pride,” it is a day that is put aside for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to showcase the pride they have in themselves, their communities, their families and in some instances their countries. Amidst the thousands of revelers and marchers, there is, undoubtedly, an expression of “Caribbeanism” in between with the colorful spectacle, the Caribbean islands are showcased and represented. The national colors of the islands are most present and we the Caribbean contingency, have taken it a bit further and we have introduced carnival into the celebrations, so it is not strange to see costumed revelers prancing, wining, dancing, chipping, to the sweet sounds of soca, calypso, and chutney on a stage that is considered one of the largest in the world.
I can recall my first pride, not so long ago along Fifth Avenue. I was carrying one of the largest costumes and I felt the sense of “yes ah reach” as I bowed to the massive audience. It still sent chills over my body as people looked at me, and applauded, and wanted to be photographed with me and took photographs. It was not only amazing but within that time frame as I walked down Fifth Avenue, I knew in my heart that this was where I belonged. New York City was now home, and if only the Caribbean islands were to embrace us, what a wonderful world it would be.
But to celebrate Gay Pride, one must understand the concept of pride.
What are we really proud of?
What are you proud of?
As and openly gay man, I am proud of the fact that despite the difficult, desperate moments that I have encountered and faced in my life as a child, as a young feminine man, as a teenager who was fighting for a sexual identity and as an adult whose character was constantly marginalized because I was effeminate, I am proud of the fact that I had the courage and the propensity to survive.
That despite the bullying, the name calling, the beatings, being ostracized, the alienation by family, friends, and even “supposed” support groups, I had the tenacity to endure it and survive in a cold ruthless world.
Yes, life may not be perfect but, too me, I have made it.
The Caribbean’s presence in celebrating pride is not by chance to be embraced by the millions out there, is not by chance…it is by right!
For it doesn’t matter if you are black, white, big, small, butch, dyke, top, bottom, drag queen, transgendered, you are embraced, you are accepted and if only for a fleeting moment, that must mean something.
So when I see the colors of Jamaica, Barbados, Haiti, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and even Guyana, represented on a worldwide stage celebrating and being embraced by the thousands as they commemorate their pride agenda, I am almost catapulted into a sense of euphoria knowing that I am not alone, but I am shared by many.
However, our pride should not end or begin with the last Sunday in June, it should be expressed every single day that we live, in this bountiful land of freedom. Though there are restrictions, we aught to be thankful that we are not being burned at the stake, or buried alive, or chopped to death, but we should remember our fellow countrymen who continue to face darkness despite fighting for their right to live their lives. We should be mindful that what we may have here, did not come easily. It was fought for and it is a right that no one should be deprived of. We should relish the fact that despite the struggles we are living in a time where tolerance is much more than tolerance and that we are a chosen people living in a chosen generation.
I have been asked by Jay Blessed to contribute to her media from a gay persons perspective.
This is not unheard of, there are other pioneering individuals from the Caribbean who have contributed toward the enlightening, teaching, and learning processes of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender communities within the Caribbean. However my effort is not to glamorize or paint a picture of success – that is not my style. I aim to tell it as it is!
It is my hope that individuals who read this column will learn from it, that you too will be able to contribute to it. I do not purport to know everything, nor do I want to be seen as the voice of the Caribbean, but from my experiences and the experiences of many others we can forge ahead and with in our own Caribbean diaspora here in the United States of America, we can eradicate some of the negativity that still prevails.
In the mean time, please, enjoy a toast to Pride…your pride!!!
- Denise Chambers