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Photo: Members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters at Piedmont Park for PRIDE (Jabari Courtney/VOX ATL)

How My First Atlanta Pride Taught Me to Embrace My Complete Self

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I don’t think your entire mindset can change over the course of a weekend, but I felt as if Pride did that for me. Atlanta Pride 2018 was the first LGBT+ event I have been to, and it made me more confident in myself and my sexuality. This was the first place I have been where I watched everyone truly being their unapologetic selves.

Pride began in 1970 after the famous Stonewall Riots that took place in Greenwich Village, New York. Pride originally began as a political movement in New York to advocate for LGBT rights, and the event began to spread across the nation with more movements and parades. It wasn’t until the 1990s when Pride was viewed as a celebration as well as a political movement. Today Pride events are held globally, and Atlanta Pride is ranked as one of the largest events in the Southeast.

As soon you enter Midtown Atlanta on Pride weekend, you see rainbows and colors adorned everywhere. Whether it is on people, flags, signs, or dogs, rainbows are everywhere. Atlanta Pride Festival attendees are there to make a statement and show who they are.

Jabari with friend and fellow VOXer Lyric at this year’s Pride celebration in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Photo by Lyric Eschoe/VOX staff

From when I first came out (almost a year ago) to now, I have had trouble telling people that I’m gay. It’s hard to come out when you know people will immediately judge me, ask uncomfortable questions, and subject me to stereotypes. However after going to Pride, I met and saw people who are comfortable and appreciative of themselves, and it’s had a lingering effect on me.

Pride allows all LGBT+ attendees to feel a sense of normality. Outside of Pride, it feels as if your sexuality causes some people to treat you like a reject or unnatural. However, when surrounded by people who are also viewed as outcasts or judged by mainstream society, you feel normal. It’s a surreal feeling when no one is judging you based on what you say, how you look, and who you love.

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As a gay black male, I feel that when I am out in the world, I can’t be my complete self. I have to tone myself down and not talk about certain things in order to make other people comfortable. Pride has taught me that you cannot sacrifice yourself and your values to make other people feel comfortable. You must value yourself and never change yourself for anyone.

You are born the way you are born and there’s no changing it. To live your best life, you have to live out and proud.

To learn more about Pride celebrations across the country and the history of Gay Pride, click on these links:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about the “Southeast most loud and proud festivals” 

About Pride month from the US Library of Congress

Pride month resources from GLADD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)  

A history of Pride month from the Human Rights Campaign

Jabari, a 16-year-old junior at Benjamin E. Banneker High School, is an active member in his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and enjoys meeting new people at concerts and other events.

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