When I woke up on the morning of Seattle Pride 2013, I was not ready for “Thongs Galore,” and that bothered me.
In my mind, going to the annual Pride Parade was just an item on the list of things queer kids did.
Also on the list were listening to Lady Gaga, loving Rent, and knowing how to dance the Time Warp—all of which are things that I just do not do. However, unlike developing a taste for flamboyant pop culture, going to Pride seemed to actually be something I should get in the habit of doing. I had spent too long saying that I was a part of the LGBTQ community but never actually joining it. I imagined it was like learning how to swim: if you wait too long to learn, it becomes almost impossible, not because you can’t learn, but because trying to learn well past your learning-to-swim prime can be downright overwhelming.
A strong sense of necessity—and a stronger sense of shame—brought me marching at the front of the parade with my church—a Catholic church. This group was marching, though, because, somehow, we all collectively enjoyed marching, cheering anomalies in both our religious and queer lives and, for some reason, that felt good. I have to admit that I was a bit wary about donning banners and shirts at Pride that would mark me as “one of those people,” but being with my church made this first Pride a secure and welcoming experience for me.
And yes, there were a lot of thongs.
There were a lot of people dressed in little or nothing at all, but somehow that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong: I love self-acceptance, and I’ve never been one to body-shame another person. But for the past couple years now, the overload of rainbow-painted boobs and skintight Speedos turned me off to Pride. I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable.
But there were really a lot of thongs.
There were a lot of thongs and a lot of bits that liked to poke and sag and wiggle, but as I was explaining to my dear, sweet little Asian mother when I came home, it was never vulgar. Some people were literally naked, yet the nakedness wasn’t about being sexy or seeking attention: it was about being comfortable, being comfortable in your own skin.
In fact, everyone took pride in what they wore and in who they were, whether that meant freely expressing their gender identity, wearing the shirt of an organization or group they support, appearing as Sailor Moon, or wearing a thong.
It only hit me then: Pride—You take pride in yourself at Pride. Oh.
Even if you are a walking anomaly, you’re supposed to take pride in that. You’re queer in a world that doesn’t accept you. You’re a girl in a world that doesn’t think you’re strong. You wear those things that can hurt you the most like badges of honor—fists clenched, chest out, and chin held high. You learn about your scratches and bruises, and that’s what Pride is all about.
Pride was on a Sunday, so as the parade ended, fully decked out in rainbow face paint and all, my family and I headed off to Mass. With the audacity to appear before the Lord’s Table in the rainbow painted mess, I must have been, I couldn’t help but smile.
Originally published on Medium; Image via Zeena Rivera