It Takes a Village, Part 2

29 Jun

The past two weekends, two friends of mine have come back to New York City to visit. While my friend Ryan came down for his birthday, Daniel came back for this past weekend’s NYC Pride March. During the summer, my friends, like me, have gone on individual paths of self-actualization, working to improve their lives and try to make sense of what they want to do. With all of my friends on their own paths, it is rare that those paths intersect. But, when Ryan came back for the weekend, the tribe seemed to gather together as if nothing had happened at all.

Going at it alone is often a sign of strength. We don’t want people to know that we’re hurting, or that we missed our morning workout, or that we’re more insecure about ourselves that we put on. To get through our walls, our friends either have to hulk through them, or shimmy up the sides. Either ways, friends need a set of skills in order to relate to each other. We have to remember people’s favorite flavors of cake on their birthday, slow our pace if we walk too far ahead, and open up our couches to each other when they need a place to sleep. Sometimes, it may show a bigger sign of strength if we lean on our friends shoulders instead of putting all the pressure on our own two feet.

A Meeting of the Walls

Ironically, it takes a lot of strength to show others our weaknesses. I see strength in a lot of my friends. I see strength in my friends who are able to recover from unfairly losing their jobs, or able to confess that their relationships aren’t as perfect as an outsider might think. I see strength in the friend who can call me up any time of day to tell me that their insecurities are at an all-time high, and I see strength in the friends that put pride aside and ask me for help.

Speaking of pride, my other near and dear friend Daniel came in this weekend for the NYC Pride March. This was my first year attending the parade, as in past years the thought of attending caused me a bit of anxiety. Though I am a huge gay activist, and now work in-depth in the community, I have always felt a tenuous connection the gay community, a completely opposite feeling from my friend Dan, who has a tenuous connection to the heterosexual community. However, if the parade taught me anything this year, it’s something very similar to something I’ve already written today. The community is nothing but a collection of individuals, and the parade is the place to gather when the community chooses to deconstruct its own walls.

The gay community can be just as racist, transphobic, and ignorant as many other communities. We don’t talk about a lot of issues, we value whiteness, and we still fret over whether the “T” belongs at the end of the acronym “LGBT” (which is too short as it is). But at the parade, svelte twinks, bulging bears, and overly active clubbers come together to celebrate that which makes us the “other.”

So, did I finally feel a connection to the gay community on Sunday? Somewhere between the end of the parade and my return home, my friend Dan and I wandered through the winding streets of the West Village. Adding to its usual labyrinthine layout, police guards and yellow taped herded us around like cows, and getting out proved to be a time-consuming difficulty. The streets, like my feelings, can be very difficult to navigate. And yet, there is another common denominator between the two:  people. Everywhere I went on Sunday, I was always within about three centimeters of another sweaty, proud person. They may not be three centimeters away, and I may not be able to reach out and grab them, but I know I always have others in community with me. As much as I may go at it alone, my strength is buttressed not by confidence and attitude alone, but by the friends I have at my fingertips.

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