Finding the Spirit of Pride in Unexpected Places

dictionary lesbian pride copyright JD Robertson Drop the L
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"Like so many lesbians, I feel disconnected from Pride, but I still managed to find an array of colors, hiding in some unexpected places."

True allies paint over some of our darkest moments. And when it hits sub-zero, they know just how to shroud us in warmth. I’m not talking about the surface kind of “ally”— Often well-meaning people, that regurgitate buzzwords and “share” the latest propaganda. I’m talking about the real deal. Actual allies. The kind that takes the time to see the ripple effect. The kind that takes the time to look at what’s happening beneath the surface.

So, this year for Pride, I thought I’d focus on a couple of allies, that have listened intently and stood up for lesbians. Not famous people, not red-carpet celebs… Everyday people in my world that have been a stitch in my heart.

It’s easy to see lesbians railing against the male-dominated everything, and think we hate men. We don’t. In fact, half of this article was inspired by my cousin Wayne. So I’ll start there. Because my cousin is not only one of the best human beings I know, he’s also one of the few men I know who cares about issues that don’t impact him. He listens and believes, rather than debates. He takes the time to see beneath the surface, to see the murky stuff that lies underneath… So half of my Pride story this year is, yes, about a straight guy… A guy who doesn’t care about collecting woke points and isn’t about to partake in BS virtue signaling.

Last summer, some guy at a bar kept yelling “faggot” at the TV, from across the room. It was loud, but I filtered it into white noise. That’s what we do a lot of the time, isn’t it? We make it into white noise. Because we can’t fight all of the time—It’s exhausting.

Last summer, some guy at a bar kept yelling “faggot” at the TV, from across the room. It was loud, but I filtered it into white noise. That’s what we do a lot of the time, isn’t it? We make it into white noise. Because we can’t fight all of the time—It’s exhausting. But my cousin pulled me out of the bar and let me know that around him, it’s okay to say that it’s not okay. When the bartender at the next bar pried, and then asked me questions about lesbians who “look like men,” about a lesbian she’d insulted, I was done. You could’ve stuck a fork in me. If my wife had been out with us, who knows how things might’ve played out. I’d hit my max for the night… Sometimes, like Gadsby, “I identify as tired.” But my cousin explained to the bartender, in such detail, the damage that kind of sexism and homophobia has done to the lesbian community, how it especially impacts young lesbians, the scars it’s caused, the ripple effect—In the kind of detail that says not-only-do-I-really-listen-but-I-absorbed-everything-you-said-and-take-it-as-seriously-as-I-would-if-it-was-directly-harming-me.

Portrait of Wayne, Julia, and Claudia in the mirror of a coffee shop.
Us, grabbing some caffeine last summer

And when I dropped my cousin off that night, he told me that he loved me so much, over and over again, till he knew that I heard him, and that I had fully absorbed it—Because although I was trying to act as though it was totally cool, he understood why it wasn’t. And he was able to take, off my shoulders, some of the weight that I carry. Some of the pain and anger that I’ve learned to choke on. That I’ve learned to shut up about (way too much of the time), because it makes other people uncomfortable. Because I’ve learned to put other people’s comfort before my own.

So this year, a year where (once again) lesbians are having a hard time around Pride—a year where lesbians are being told we may no longer celebrate with Pride—I’ve found my pride moments in some unexpected places… With an ally, a straight guy, my bro, my cousin—Because he’s not afraid to speak up for me, at the times I find it hardest to speak up for myself. 

I’ve saved my sister, Jen, for the second half of this Pride story, because she’s the ever after to my Frozen—The Anna to my Elsa. She’s the keeper of childhood wishes on dandelions, the co-catcher of fireflies on long-ago summer nights. And she’s one of the few people I know that will not only read an article I wrote on Hannah Gadsby, but additionally go and watch the Netflix special to make sure she grasps why it was so meaningful and groundbreaking to the L community… And then, months later, call my wife and I, to tell us that—surprise—she’s snatched up tickets for us all, to go see Hannah Gadsby live.

Screenshots: sisters Elsa and Anna, Frozen

My sister is the knower of nostalgia written upon the earliest of chapters, and a bookmark between pages no one else can ever know. She’s also one of the best human beings I know. This year, she helped us kick off a project to create visibility and a much needed voice for the lesbian community. Not everyone takes the time to look past the shiny propaganda facade. Not everyone can see the ripple effect that’s put the L, especially its youth, in harm’s way. And not everyone can see how the ripple effect doesn’t just end there. My sister sees the bigger picture.

Having any semblance of a support system so often requires us to live in a thin cloud of denial, always knowing, never admitting, that the love that surrounds us carries conditions—It so often requires us to pretend we didn’t hear, when we did. To pretend we’re okay, when we’re not. To sit out, when we just want to dance.

Having any semblance of a support system so often requires us to live in a thin cloud of denial, always knowing, never admitting, that the love that surrounds us carries conditions—It so often requires us to pretend we didn’t hear, when we did. To pretend we’re okay, when we’re not. To sit out, when we just want to dance. So, having a sister who listens, who argues that she loves me more (on the days that I need that “more” the most), is everything. Hopefully we all have that person. Hopefully more than one.

The world is a much easier place to be, with someone in your corner. Someone who gets that something as basic as holding a hand, isn’t basic for everyone. That some days leaving the house means wishing you’d stayed home… Because leaving the house—to do something as basic as vote, or go to the supermarket, or get a Christmas card printed up at Walgreens—can sometimes go really wrong for We the “Faggots.”

Like so many lesbians, I feel disconnected from Pride, but I still managed to find an array of colors, hiding in some unexpected places. And it made me realize how important it is that I say this—The world is a much easier place to be, when you have true allies. The real McCoy. People who take the time to listen and grasp what you’re saying. People who don’t question your reality, rather make an effort to see that reality. People who look past the smiles and the “I’m okays,” to understand that it’s not always okay. Who let us know that it’s okay to say when we’re not okay.

The world is a much easier place to be, with someone in your corner. Someone who gets that something as basic as holding a hand, isn’t basic for everyone. That some days leaving the house means wishing you’d stayed home… Because leaving the house—to do something as basic as vote, or go to the supermarket, or get a Christmas card printed up at Walgreens—can sometimes go really wrong for We the “Faggots.”

This Pride I honor the people we have in our lives, that see our hurt and anger, and step up… Especially at those times when they see us choking words down, because we’ve learned to prioritize the comfort of others. I honor these people, because these people, if we’re lucky enough to have them, lift us up when we’re depleted. They speak up at those times we’re at a loss for words—In those moments we’re used to having to defend ourselves, all by ourselves.

This is my thank you. Because this Pride, when I tried to see the good, I found you there. Thank you for not watching us drown from the sidelines. Thank you for not saying “this is not my problem.” Thank you for listening. Thank you for the raft. And thank you for painting strokes of color across the canvas, on the stormiest of nights, so that when I remember the darkest of moments, they’re covered in reds, oranges, pinks, yellows, and blues—Flashes of the most beautiful light.


جوليا ديانا — Julia Diana Robertson, is an award-winning author, and a contributor for Huffington Post and AfterEllen—A first generation Arab-American, who grew up between worlds, and currently resides somewhere in the middle with a bird’s eye view. 

Julia and Claudia. The Robertsons
Julia and her wife Claudia… disrupting fragile masculinity since birth.
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