Don’t let anyone steal your PRIDE – no matter what you have to do to keep it!

I think everyone who knows me pretty well knows I’m always so psyched over PRIDE festivities, no matter where they are. Celebrating PRIDE is what makes me tick, what gets my juices revving, what I live for each year. I am so happy PRIDE Month is here, and I want to do everything I can do to honor everything about it.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this year PRIDE in Asbury Park wasn’t exactly what I had expected. I had fun, but I felt like I was in need of doing something much more earth-shattering. I don’t know what I could’ve done to celebrate it any grander.

I mean, the parade, despite rainfall, turned into a good time, as the rain passed right before the parade commenced. Someone was shining over it. After all, some joke my motto is, “Everyone loves a parade,” and it’s the truth. There were various parties which were a lot of fun, and I had a good time at each event.
I think one thing which did put a damper on my PRIDE was a person with whom I feel pretty close caused a lot of drama, and I felt like I was caught in between a rock and a hard place. I never like feeling that way because growing up with parents who fought every hour of the day, I always felt like I had to be the peacemaker. And trust me, that is a really rough place for a youngster to be.

That’s why, despite the occasional appearance of Miss Bernadine and her now-famous temper, I try to be a peacemaker. I hate to have that duty in some situations, but if you grew up in a household where the heads of that household argued relentlessly and never spoke except through yelling, it’s a role into which you’ll inevitably fall.

PRIDE weekend in Asbury Park, for me, is my “coming out” birthday. This year marked 15 years for me. I think that’s why it meant so much to me, and I put a lot of emphasis on it. I needed it to be the best it could be. You see, by coming out, I had given up a lot, but I was happy because despite giving up so much, I was also gaining so much.

I was gaining my freedom to be who I wanted to be, who I was born to be. I was gaining a slew of friends in my gay world, whom I just knew would have my back because we stick together. We all have war stories, and we’ve all had to deal with struggles to be who we are. I was gaining a sense of purpose in my life. But above all else, I was gaining pride in myself and learning how to love myself as a gay man.

In the process of my transformation, I was also losing a lot. I knew despite my strong desire to be a drag performer, my mother, despite being okay with her son being gay, would never accept her gay son in a dress. So I honored that wish – thus ending Olivia Twisted’s career.

I was also going to have to give up my life as a religious leader in my church. Such a lifestyle was not acceptable. I had devoted so much of my life to religion, and I did so much in my religious life to make the leaders proud of me. I have to be honest: there have been a number of tough struggles I’ve faced in my life, and I always have a nagging feeling that by choosing to live my life as the gay man I was born as, I am always being punished for it. I don’t tell that to people because it is an awful feeling to have in your life. But I guess I need to say it now because there may be others who feel that way sometimes. It can depress you more than anything, and it can make you feel less than.

I also lost a couple of friends by coming out. They were two of my best friends, both heterosexual. It’s very funny to reflect on it now because the male best friend just couldn’t accept my lifestyle, and it hindered our friendship. We hardly speak to this day. I knew my other friend loved me, and she always had my back. But she was torn between my male friend’s prejudice of me, and my desire for her to choose between us. I felt like she ultimately chose him, and our friendship suffered. She has since passed away, and not one day goes by in which I don’t miss her and regret my decision to let her go and let her be best friends with him without putting her in the middle any longer.

For all of those reasons, and a few others, PRIDE celebrations mean so much to me.

So when I was put in the middle of a terrible situation this PRIDE weekend, it tore me apart. And realizing this person whom I’ve grown to care about might not have cared how much of a terrible situation I was being forced into, it hurt me. He alienated so many people in my life, and it was painfully obvious I can no longer let this person be a significant part of my life. He caused too much damage, and I have to acknowledge he will never get it, no matter how many people try to explain it to him.

When you’ve spent your entire life being the peacemaker in really stressful situations, you get plain tired of having that role. And I am tired of having that role.

I guess this PRIDE weekend showed me I no longer wish to be cornered in a place where I lose my PRIDE, and my exquisite love for PRIDE (both the festivities and in myself). I am so very thankful my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community always pull together to put on a great weekend – from Tea dances at The Asbury (the new hotel in Asbury Park) and Paradise; to the pool parties at Hotel Tides and Paradise; to the drag performances and dance parties at Georgies and Paradise. We all came together to support each other and show our PRIDE. I was so happy to drive the Hotel Tides car in the parade, and so proud each year I get to share the ride with my best friend Ryan and the Pink Prom’s king and queen. I get to enjoy Pink Prom, my fundraising baby, all over again as the crowned king and queen ride in the parade with us. I’m also happy I get the chance to celebrate with those friends whom I don’t get to see as much as I’d like.

This year I was going through a couple of professional struggles, so I guess that’s why I needed my personal situations to be on-point this PRIDE weekend. And also why having to come to the realization it’s time to cut someone loose was especially painful for me.

But … let’s make PRIDE Month a great and enjoyable time for everyone. No need for chaos, confusion or turmoil. Personally, I need nothing but celebration for myself and my fellow LGBTQ community members. I just haven’t got time for the pain.

(**Editor’s note: This blog post also begins a slight revamp for my blog detailing the goings-on in Asbury Park’s LGBTQ community, as my blog’s name has changed; it is now “Gossip guuuurrll: Living in the gay scene of Asbury Park. A few more changes forthcoming …)