6 LGBTQ-Identifying People Share How Pride Has Changed Their Lives

Pride Month Memories
Photo: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images.

Pride was created in 1970 to celebrate LGBT culture. 48 years later, it’s more spectacular than ever, in my opinion. The energy is uplifting, with an overwhelming feeling of positivity and pride—not only in ourselves, but our fellow community members.

To honor Pride—its legacy, its current status, and its future—I’ve interviewed five LGBTQ+ identifying friends about their most unforgettable Pride experiences and their biggest hopes for Pride’s future. Ahead, read their heartfelt stories, and honor the end of this latest Pride month as we count down to next year’s celebration.

Love is love. Be proud of who you are.

Jeff Perla

How do you identify?

Male | Gay | Pronouns: He/Him

What are your most unforgettable Pride experiences?

I’ve gone to Pride for three years. My first year I went by myself as I was new to New York City, it’s gay scene, and I just wanted to go make friends. I soon realized what a fun and open community I was walking into! People showed me around, introduced me to their friends, and I had zero hesitations about being alone. The next year I went with friends and it was amazing to celebrate with people I love. Fortunately, my career has taken off from my Instagram over this past year, and I’ve had the opportunity to experience many different parades and celebrations from Miami to LA. No matter the coast or city, the message remains the same: love is love and be proud of who you are.

How do you see the future of Pride?

I hope Pride is becoming more of a celebration for all people, whether you’re gay or straight. Allies should feel welcome in the community and [be able to] celebrate how far we’ve come as a society. I think it’s important to show unity amongst all people; it might allow the ones who bash gays to understand and become more open-minded. I see Pride being a weekend that is celebrated much like St. Patrick’s Day; you don’t need to be Irish to celebrate, but you celebrate it because it’s a great environment and you support what your friends are standing for.

Editor’s note: Check out Perla’s Instagram blog, @TheTravelinBum, which features portraits of LGBT people’s butts captioned by their coming-out stories, including Corey Rae’s, which you can read here.

I hope Pride continues to give people a sense of hope, resistance, resilience, and family.

Dayna Troisi

How do you identify?

Woman | Lesbian | Pronouns: She/Her

What are your most unforgettable Pride experiences?

When I was 17, my older cousin took me to Pride. I remember lying to my mom and saying I was going to Six Flags. I put on an all-rainbow outfit, doused myself in glitter, then put on a big T-shirt to cover it all up. I was so scared to leave my house, but once I was finally there I’ve never felt so invigorated with energy, acceptance, and it was turnt as fuck. I will never forget the small act of kindness my cousin showed me by taking me. Since then it has only gotten more amazing.

How do you see the future of Pride?

I see Pride continuing to give people a sense of hope, resistance, resilience, and family. I can only imagine how intoxicating the energy will be at world pride.

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Pride season means so much more to people in these divisive times.

Jesse Saint John

How do you identify?

GNC (Gender Non Conforming) | Pan(sexual) | Pronouns: He/Him

What are your most unforgettable Pride experiences?

As a songwriter, I’ve been blessed to have so many friends perform our songs on the main stage over the past couple years (Charli XCX, Brooke Candy, Erika Jayne). Seeing thousands of smiling, inclusive faces singing lyrics I wrote is a highlight; but the best time was performing my own songs at the main stage this year. I’ll never forget it.

How do you see the future of Pride?

I see it getting bigger. I know this year [at LA Pride], thousands and thousands were turned away due to overcrowding, so I have a feeling next year the actual festival will need to be held somewhere else. As far as Pride season I just see it expanding more to wider audiences and meaning so much more to people in these divisive times.

MORE: 8 Fashion Brands Supporting the LBGTQ Community for Pride Month

The energy of people who’ve been treated as ‘different’ being so unapologetically themselves—it’s contagious.

Michelle Ovalles

How do you identify?

Gender Queer (AKA Gender Non-Binary) | Queer | She/Her

What are your most unforgettable Pride experiences?

My most memorable Pride moment was last year, my last summer spent in New York City, on our way to Fire Island. My closest friends back home are all gay and although we had made that trip countless times before, this day was different. Pride month was in full effect, and the ferry ride will forever be imprinted in my heart—music blasting, wind blowing, and being surrounded by people who understood each other. The energy from people I knew had been looked at or thought of as “different” before but still were so unapologetically themselves was so contagious. Watching them be so happy and so full of pride made me embrace my queerness and embrace who I am.

How do you see the future of Pride?

I see such a brilliant future for the community. I know with our current President, it’s hard to keep a positive outlook, but we’ve made such huge strides in the past. I’m hopeful that in the future, queer kids will be able to safely express their true selves outside of Pride festivities, in healthy environments, without the constant feeling of being marginalized.

MORE: How My Mom Helped Me Become the Transgender Woman I Am Today

I hope to see LGBTQ+ festivals celebrate queer liberation without rainbow capitalism.

Jordan Gonzalez

How do you identify?

Transgender Male | Straight | Pronouns: He/Him

What are your most unforgettable Pride experiences?

These memories have to do with the people Pride allowed me to cross paths with; whether it was for a brief moment or something that turned into a deeper friendship. Pride has always been an environment that has allowed me to meet diverse individuals who feel free to be their authentic beings, and there is nothing more beautiful than that to me.

How do you see the future of Pride?

I personally hope to see LGBTQ+ festivals change by celebrating queer liberation without rainbow capitalism. Just because a corporate company dons a rainbow flag during the month of June, doesn’t necessarily mean they support our community throughout the other 11 months.

I wasn’t worried about being stared at once someone heard the deepness in my voice; instead I was proud.

My Own Experiences

My identification:

Transgender Woman | Straight | Pronouns: She/Her

My most unforgettable Pride experiences

My perception of Pride has changed over the past four years. While in college and living stealth, I went to Pride in New York City twice. The first time I just walked through it with a friend on the way somewhere else and was slightly annoyed by the barricaded streets and tourism. I was astonished to see two open trans-women celebrating in scantily clad outfits in the middle of the streets; Caitlyn Jenner wouldn’t come out and open up the conversation of transgenderism in the mainstream media for a few months. The next year, Jenner was out and I was about a week away from coming out myself via my first blog post. I so badly wanted to tell all my queer friends that I was transgender but couldn’t, so although the energy surrounding me was happy and fun, I was sad at the same time.

My first pride in LA was an insane amount of fun; I spent the day brunching and strutting around the parade and festival with my Playmate friends. Even though my friends knew about me, I didn’t know how to be prideful about being transgender and that didn’t change until this year’s Pride. For me, this June’s LA Pride was magical. I wasn’t worried about being stared at once someone heard the deepness in my voice; instead I was proud of how distinctive it made me. Noticing the people around me talking amongst themselves trying to decide if I was trans or not usually makes me uncomfortable, but this year I was happy to share with people questioning my gender identity. Most people thought I was “just a lesbian,” and then started asking a million questions once I corrected them. I loved feeling unconditionally free and accepted. I’ve never felt more comfortable in my life, ever, and I don’t want to let that feeling go.

My future vision of Pride

I see Pride’s future growing, not only in attendance, but also expanding to other cities across America. As we progress as a country—and, slowly, we are—our nation will become more accepting toward Pride festivities and start to hold them in places we wouldn’t expect. This way, every LGBTQ+ community member and our allies can have a time at least once a year to come together and celebrate each other’s stunning uniqueness.