Pride, a Symbol of Resistance and Strength

SYLK USA is proud to celebrate PRIDE during the month of June! This is a time to celebrate the progress that has been made and continue to raise awareness of visibility and inclusion for the LGTBQIA+ community. Last year (2018), we featured guest blogger Tyler Diaz in his post “In Celebration of Pride”. We are honored to invite Tyler back again this year to write another guest blog for Pride Month.

About the Author

About the Author: Tyler is a native Californian who studied evolutionary psychology at the University of Arizona and obtained his masters in social work from Fordham University. As a social worker and therapist, Tyler has dedicated his career to working with LGBTQ youth and young adults, with an intersection in foster youth, young adults in the criminal justice system, domestic violence survivors and immigrant youth. Tyler works to assist his clients in developing insight to their emotional and biological responses to environmental stressors. He is currently working with people living substance use disorders involved in the criminal justice system and works in private practice. In addition to his clinical passion, Tyler is an animal lover, a comic book reader, a geological fact lover, and a runner. 

Tyler Writes:

Pride, to me, is a symbol of resistance and strength. It’s a deeply personal journey while simultaneously a journey you share with all your closest people. Pride is validation in the most raw form; something profound and terrifying. Whatever it is, it’s right. You’re right. Every piece of you. Live loud and proud or live quiet and soft. This is Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, you do you, that’s what Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera and countless others fought for. Our existence is an act of rebellion because society says we shouldn’t. 

Last year I wrote a piece on how to be educated and become involved; help your neighbor. This year, for the 50th anniversary of that brick thrown in a gay bar in New York City by a fed up transwoman of color, I wanted to be a little more personal. It’s important to be vulnerable; maybe your vulnerability will help someone else. With today’s politics being less than desirable, it’s important to hold up one another. While this administration says they support our community, we are constantly struck down with divisive rhetoric and unjust laws. People use this to justify hate crimes, to attack our bodies and bring down our spirits. It’s important to point out that that first brick thrown at a small gay bar by a transwoman of color in NYC was a symbol for the fight ahead. Trust and believe that we have power; I want you to feel empowered. 

As an openly gay person, community is an interesting topic. It’s something I never really developed with other queer people, I have my good friends, friends I cherish, but I struggled. I was afraid of my identity and I was afraid of theirs. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin I projected my own insecurities onto others. As I got older, I accepted more of myself and as a result, more of others. As a social worker, I once had a client who told me that I was a woman who never transitioned, that my feminine energy always radiated, but my presentation remained in male form. We had a beautiful conversation about identity and what it meant to feel free. 

I remember as a child I used to pretend I had long red hair; my mannerisms mimicked how I thought a person with long, flowing hair would act. I remember my mom saying something to me and I turned around flipping my imaginary hair, I remember the look on her face, the confusion, not judgment, but that was the first time I remember being different. 

I remember being in kindergarten, surrounding myself with my friends who all happened to be girls. I would run away from the boys in the pack of girls. I liked pink and purple, I asked my very Latina grandmother for the Pocahontas Barbie, which to my surprise, she bought me. I remember that Disney store like it is the room I’m sitting in today; the magic I felt when I held that Barbie was amazing. 

I remember my innocence, being different, in my experience, was easy as a child. Once you hit puberty, those middle school and high school years were some of the most difficult years of my life. I remember my church telling me about sinful sex acts before I even thought of sexual acts at all. I was conditioned to feel imperfect before I knew what made me perfect. 

I remember being called a faggot in middle school, so loudly I felt the echo in my body; my teacher just staring at me, then, continuing the lesson while my classmates snickered. It didn’t feel good, even worse, I was embarrassed to tell my mom because what if I was that faggot. Would she call me that too? What did embracing that faggot mean? I remember no longer making myself visible; I would try my best to only speak if absolutely necessary. I remember dreading going to school and being around those people who labeled me a faggot. 

I remember joining the swim team in high school and being told to wait to shower because the other boys didn’t want me looking at them. I wandered around outside the locker room until they were all gone, finally able to shower and go to class. Sometimes I would skip the shower all together to avoid the harassment, the stench of chlorine on my skin and in my hair reminding me that my femininity and sexuality (which I hadn’t come into) were different and wrong. 

I remember coming out. I remember the sheer terror, the relief. I remember some people being shocked and some people saying they knew. I remember my mom taking some time, but mostly because she didn’t know how to navigate me being in this world of cruelty. I remember my grandmother’s tears because she couldn’t understand the fear I had internalized and my grandfathers confusion but willingness to learn what he needed. I remember my brother messaging me on Facebook saying, “hey, I love you no matter what, but are you gay?” I remember the chuckle I had and the relief I felt. I remember my other brother never mentioning it, because it just was. I remember my aunt being excited, a reaction I never thought was possible. 

I remember walking with two of my closest friends and being called a faggot (something I was now immune to.) They immediately turned around to let those bullies know they wouldn’t be putting up their shit. There was a sense of ease that came with their fear. 

 As I reflect on what I’m writing, I realized that even though what I remembered was mostly negative, I made it to the point of remembering. I am now in a place to begin remembering the positive. What a privilege it is to be alive.  

There is a lot of work to be done. Even inside of our own community we have racism, transphobia, classism, misogyny, and xenophobia. It doesn’t take a lot to educate yourself, to listen to someone else’s experience and provide them with the comfort that they have been waiting for; you can be the light in someone’s darkness. Our history is rich with fighting back and joining together. Our existence is an act of rebellion, and what a beautiful rebellion it is. 

Finding your beauty can be difficult, almost impossible at times. Even when you think everything is perfect, something can shake your world up. But that’s temporary. People say life is short, but it’s the longest thing we do. Keep your body and soul selfishly unique and nourished. Radiate exactly who you are, only you can do that. 

If you do struggle with this, it’s okay to ask for help. Talk to a friend, find a community center, test the waters with therapy. It’s okay not to be okay. It takes time. If you see someone struggling, give a smile, if you’re at a pride event, make sure to welcome your community, it’s so important and necessary. If you have the time, find an LGBTQ organization that helps people come into their own, or literally just stay alive.  

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are great resources that can help. The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline are both great resources for people to talk to someone in a time of need. Please, reach out, or share the information with someone in need. 

“Our armies are rising and we are getting stronger.” –Sylvia Rivera


*This blog was written by Tyler Diaz in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily represent/ reflect the views of SYLK USA.

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