We Wear The Mask: What Pride Means To Me12 June, 2019
We Wear The Mask: What Pride Means To Me
David Slade, Founding Member, Board of Directors, HomeField Alliance
I have always been moved by Paul Dunbar’s “We Wear The Mask.” As an African-American gay man, I find truth in its words. Moving from a small southern town to New York City in my early 20s I found something I never thought I would have: community. Like so many others before me, finding community was an opportunity to accept myself for who I am and realize I am not alone. If friends are the family you choose, I found it in New York. No longer did I see the world as such a lonely place. All that was promised to everyone else was an option for me. I could be happy, healthy, love and be loved.
My first year in New York was a transformative experience. I enjoyed my work and the opportunity to spend time with my new-found family. At that moment of my life that was enough for me. I grew accustomed to social gatherings that were after work, on weekends and mostly at night. When the subject of Pride first came up among friends, I didn’t know what to think. “What is it? Everyone will be there? Where is there? Is it one event or more? Is it during the day? What do I tell my boss?” I was still wearing the mask.
Pride was initially framed as a series of parties where our community proudly celebrates who we are. I eventually developed the courage to invite straight friends and family to share in the festivities. Many of them felt honored to be included. It was the first chance I had to merge my day and nighttime worlds together.
Like any community, one’s experience can be a segregated one. Pride opened my eyes and I began to understand and embrace all aspects of our diversity. It was much more than a party. I was moved to see individuals and families of all shapes, sizes and colors united under the common themes of respect, love, and equality. I soaked it up. I saw Pride as an opportunity to celebrate the impact of LGBTQ+ individuals have made on the world.
Pride also allowed me to recognize my own privilege. Since that initial experience I have been fortunate to be out and proud at my place of employment, marry the man I love, and raise a beautiful son. We did not get here alone. Our family stands on the shoulders of civil rights trailblazers to whom we will never fully know and understand the depth of their sacrifice.
As I grew older, I have developed an appreciation for how we arrived at this moment in history as a LGBTQ+ community. With privilege comes responsibility. I pledge to value inclusivity and continue the fight for equality and justice for all. For me, Pride provides a platform to elevate the conversation for us to do more and do better not on just one day but year-round. My husband and I want our son to understand and appreciate Pride and carry that forward to the next generation. We want him to know that his dads fully embrace who we are for all the world to see and that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is something to be celebrated. Pride reminds us that the time for masks is over.