Pride | Joey Raven

On June 6th, the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus took to the field to sing the Canadian and National anthems for Pride Night before the A’s game at the Oakland Coliseum. It was a truly amazing day, and indeed filled me with pride to walk down from the stands and belt out my love for where and when I live.

This is the first year that I’ve celebrated Pride Month in any way, and so it’s the first time I’ve really felt a bit of the importance it has in the world. I don’t believe fear and hatred are more present in our society today than in the past, however I do believe those feelings are now largely unrestrained. People are raw, weary of each other, and I will admit to being a part of that when I walked out onto the field. In my mind, I was entering the world of “jocks,” a world I have feared and felt unwelcome in for as long as I can remember. I was worried I wouldn’t feel support or acceptance. Perhaps I even felt an instinctive pang of anger at the thought of being seen only for my suddenly very public sexual orientation, rather than for any of the things I feel make me an individual. I will forever be profoundly proud to stand side by side with my OEBGMC mates, however I find it much more challenging to summon feelings of personal pride than pride for the people I stand with.

I am pleased to say that on that day, my fear was not necessary. These feelings were coming from inside me, not from the crowd around us. Within seconds of starting our first song, I was able to shed the fears I brought with me. It didn’t feel as much like a performance as I expected, but rather like a shared experience with everyone in the stadium. We were a welcomed part of the evening, proof to me that people can come together and celebrate despite their fears and differences. Walking back through the stands, shaking hands with complete strangers who were smiling and thanking us, I started to think about those feelings I had brought with me onto the field—in a word, I would call it inadequacy, a belief that others see me as inadequate and so therefor I must be.

This was by far my most public appearance as an openly gay man, and I don’t think I really understood what Pride meant to me before that. It’s a reminder that we are not inadequate, that no one is less deserving. It’s a reminder of both our similarities and the things that make us unique, of our strengths and our faults as a people. While there may be those who would condemn us, there are also those who would celebrate us and each other, who understand that our pride, love, and concern for our country is as real as anyone else’s.

So as we move on from Pride Month, it’s important to remember the progress that has been made. The chorus will be participating in Alameda’s 4th of July parade, and I for one am thankful to live in a time and place that allows us to walk in this event and feel relatively safe doing so. Especially in the recent political climate, now is the time to come together and hold fast, to keep reaching for equality. I hope that one day Pride Month will be an obsolete concept, that the necessity of holding fast in the face of fear and hatred will fade away as society evolves to let ignorance be replaced by acceptance. Until then, I am proud to stand with you all.