The day was quickly approaching, it all felt so surreal. A week prior I had taken one of the biggest steps in my life and come out as bisexual to my family, friends, and followers. And now I was taking part in my first ever LGBT+ Pride event in San Diego by marching in the parade in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers, notably one of the biggest LGBT Prides in the country.
I didn’t know what to expect or if I was indeed ready for Pride so soon after coming out. Despite my mixed emotions, I decided to take the plunge and I’m so glad I did. I needed to learn for myself why Pride was important for me and my journey. On the way to Pride I made a Facebook Live video and began to fill myself with the positive messages of love and support from everyone who follows me. The closer I got to the event the more elated I became, this was actually happening.
The colorful rainbow flag of Hillcrest (a predominantly LGBT neighborhood within San Diego) shined brighter than I had ever seen before, everything just felt right. When I met with the others at the LGBT Community Center after finally finding parking (that’s a whole other story on it’s own), I began to take a few pictures to capture the moment. Never before have I felt so much love and support, the crowds were already rolling in and I was like a kid in the candy store. Beautiful men, women, and non-binary of all ages and sexualities/gender identities were present and we had all come together with one central message, love. Just as I took in the sights and sounds it was time for the parade to start and our group was amongst the first leading the entire parade (no pressure at all I thought to myself).
As we marched down University Ave in San Diego I became overwhelmed inside with emotions, this touched me more than I ever thought imaginable. I’ve always said that happiness is a state of being and I can ensure you on that day I was the happiest I had been in a long time. The smiles and cheering crowds lit a fire under me like never before, I was out and showing the world that I was proud to be who I am. As a bisexual I was unsure what the reaction would be as I had heard mixed takes on bisexuals attending Pride events. However, I was received with warm and open arms from all that I came in contact with. As the march continued high fives were given, gifts were tossed to the crowd, and I saw a community come together as one.
Of course their were the haters, those that would have me believe I am going to hell and can pray the bisexuality away, but the cheers and joy was so loud that love overtook that immediate sphere and to be honest, I couldn’t hear a word they said. I’m a born-again bisexual Christian and they were going to have to deal with it.
After an approximately mile long walk that took around 45 minutes we had reached our final destination, Balboa Park where we would enjoy viewing the rest of the parade and await the music festival to follow. I was absolutely exhausted at this point, more emotionally than physically but their was no way I was going to miss the rest of this experience. After more sunblock, a couple of fruit flavored popsicles, and lots of water I stood and watched in amazement as hundreds of more teams and organizations completed the parade that ended in Balboa Park. The creativity of some of the floats and teams was absolutely amazing. Bands, dancers, churches, drag queens, local schools, go-go dancers, emergency responders, politicians, law enforcement, and military all partook in the celebration.
While at Balboa Park I also had the opportunity to meet a fellow HIV activist in person, Robert Petersen (left), who is from my hometown of Bakersfield and really doing some great work for PLWHA in Kern County. The day was getting better by the minute.
The music festival that followed was everything and more than I expected. As I walked through the venue hundreds of booths lined the inside along with areas for dancing and drinks, I was taking in every moment. Furthermore, I was happy to see free HIV testing being offered along with educational questions for people to answer in the form of a game. I also saw the promotion of PrEP which as you know is a huge advancement in changing the way we think about HIV prevention along with U=U (Treatment as Prevention).
I headed to the dance area and grabbed a couple drinks at the side bar to relax a bit. I danced a few dances, kissed a really hot United States Marine, and went on to explore more of what the booths had to offer. Although much of this day was spent exploring on my own I met a lot of new people and strengthened friendships with others as well who looked out for me as a guide of sorts at Pride. As the night came to a close and I knew I would have to soon drive home I took a Lyft back to my car. The entire way home I was singing to the top of my lungs (sorry for anyone that had drive around me due to the horrendous noise that in my own mind sounded awesome lol), it felt like I was in the twilight zone. Did that really just happen? Did I really just attend my first Pride event ? Yes, I did!
Pride was a time for me to come out of my shell, the box I had placed myself in. No longer would shame about my experiences, feelings, or new-found sexual identity rule my life. Rather, I am now out and Proud and that’s something to celebrate. It was a similar feeling to when I started in HIV advocacy, I decided to embrace my virus and view it from a different perspective but this time with my sexuality.
After years of struggling with my mental health because of the feeling and experiences I had had in my life, I was at a place where I could say I am living authentically through and through for everything that I am, including being bisexual.
I’m simply Josh and that hasn’t changed but Pride brought a new skip to my step, a new milestone in my life. Not only am I thrilled that I attended LGBT + Pride in San Diego but I realized that it was exactly at this moment in my life. I am looking forward to next year as well as to attending Pride in Palm Springs in the Fall. Remember, whether it be HIV or your sexual identity, always be proud of who you are!