For years now, I have wanted to go to the Toronto Pride Parade. My only hesitation was that I did not think I would be able to deal with the protesters. People’s words used to have more of an impact on me, and I was not sure I would feel OK with all the hate. This year, I feel a bit different. I am more confident in myself and my ability to see the love outweigh the hate.
I was speaking to a friend about some hesitations with going to Pride. I said something along the lines of, “It isn’t about me.” And she responded with, “But it is still for you.”
I often forget that I am actually part of the community. My life is so calm now I that tend to forget what it was like when all this was new to me.
Learning about my sexuality
I still remember the day I learned what bisexuality was. I was 14 and in grade nine. I had gone to a fairly sheltered school up until then (or maybe I was just the sheltered one), and I had not experienced or learned anything about the different types of sexualities.
I remember two girls telling they were bi and thinking, “Wait, this is an option?” And for a moment, everything seemed so OK. I felt like I finally understood myself so much more, and I was as close to happy as I could be at that time. Self-acceptance really is a wonderful thing. I felt so comfortable with myself and my new opportunities.
There were many moments when I didn’t feel OK, though, especially when I was still learning about myself and my sexuality. I made the mistake of thinking everyone would be as accepting as those two girls.
There were times things seemed far less than OK. Times when I was ashamed to hold my girlfriend’s hand in school. Times when we would sit in the back of her Mom’s car, and we never told her we were dating for fear of the reaction.
I remember the Valentine’s Day when we wanted to go to the movies, and had to pretend we were celebrating “Best Friends Day.” I remember standing in my kitchen as my heart sped up and my stomach hurt, right before I told my parents that I was dating a girl, and the feeling of relief right after.
I remember standing in that same kitchen, carefully placing sprinkles on a cupcake to make out the words “You + Me?”—the way I asked out my third girlfriend. I remember the butterflies I felt when she said yes. I remember the happiness I felt when my mom paused the TV and called me downstairs to point out a female character she thought I would think was pretty.
How soon I forgot about the bad days, the insecure days. I feel so lucky to have those days behind me, to have permanent people in my life who will accept me as I am.
I owe an apology
All this reflecting has made me look inside myself and at my past actions. Although I experienced being hurt, I also hurt others. There are so many people to whom I owe an apology. There are so many people to whom an apology will never be enough.
It took way too long for me to ‘get’ it. It took way too long for me to stop using the word ‘gay’ as an insult, to care about more than what directly affected me, and to learn and listen.
To the people I hurt when I used slurs, without fully understanding the depth of those words and the pain attached to each one, I am so sorry. To the people whose sexuality I questioned, when they said or did something that fit into the narrow box of a stereotype, I am so sorry. To the people I made feel unwelcome, with my actions or the words I chose to use, I am so sorry.
It took way too long for me to ‘get’ it. It took way too long for me to stop using the word ‘gay’ as an insult, to care about more than what directly affected me, and to learn and listen. To stop saying “It’s a bad habit” when asked to stop, as if that made it OK, as if other people’s pain and discomfort was a habit.
I know we were all learning, but some of us did it more innocently than others. Reflecting is always important. Reflecting honestly and critically is even more important. I want to go to Pride with an open heart and a clear mind.
I realize I need to stop expecting others to forgive me. I need to forgive myself and create actions that support my new realizations and the person I want to be.
There are still many people who believe I am straight. I still, on occasion, tell people I am straight. I don’t know if I will ever be 100 percent comfortable with saying I am bisexual. There are people I have met who have pleasantly surprised me and people who have severely disappointed me with their reactions.
I have come to realize it is possible to owe an apology and deserve one at the same time. I have been the person who made others feel less than accepted, while also being the one who was not accepted. I continue to learn that people are not all one thing.
As soothing as it is to write this, I know I need to do more. Words are just that, words. And if you’re not careful, they never become anything else. It is easy to feel like you have done so much when you have actually done nothing at all.
Look inside yourself
I ask others to look inside themselves. Ask yourself if you need to make an apology. Look for things you need to improve on, for words you need to stop using, for words you need to learn more about.
Look inside yourself and ask what you can do, rather than what you can say to make up for things you have said and done. You may not be able to make up for everything; you may just need to go forward with a new perspective and a new humbleness.
So, when I am at Pride this weekend, I will listen. I will listen to the people stronger than me who continue to live and be true to themselves. I will learn the full acronym. I will stop relying on others to explain things to me, but listen when they do. I will listen to those who know their identity but have not told others yet. I may have to listen to people spewing hate, but I can listen, knowing that is no longer me.