Here in Orlando we just had the huge pride event known as gay days.
Living in Orlando for my whole life, I have attended many of the Gay Day events
each year. There was a time when I stopped going because I was over the
until I met Randy.
A few years ago I was dragged by my friends to attend one of the main
events which takes place at one of Orlando's theme parks. It is June so
it is hot, humid and everyone will be wearing red in the unforgiving sun. I
was not so excited to get up and show my pride so early and I was hoping I would not get
drenched in one of the thunderstorms which occur each afternoon here during the summer. After protesting, I finally agreed to go. I dragged myself out of bed, put
on my red shirt and off I went to the crowded theme park to bake in the sun
while waiting over 45 minutes to ride a 2 minute ride.
During the day, as my friends and I are walking to the next ride, I noticed a guy my
age walking all by himself. I thought how sad is it to be here all
alone. I did not understand why you would come to Gay Days alone.
He happens to get in line in front of me for the ride. He is smiling
and seems to be having a great time. He is looking all around and seems to be taking it all in. He turns and says hi to me.
I smile and introduce myself as Michael and he says his name is Randy.
Randy has a southern accent and tells me he is from a small town in Georgia. I
asked who he came with and he said he made the long drive himself. He
saves a lot of his money to afford this trip each year.
He is not "out" at home because his town is not accepting of the gay community. He doesn't even know another gay person within the small population of his town. His mother passed away when he was young and his father is battling his third round of cancer. His father, who knows he is gay, needs someone to
take care of him and Randy is all he has. He has placed his life on
hold to care for his father. He said, "It was the right thing to do."
This event each year is his chance to be with other gay men and
see them having fun, in loving relationships and spending time with
friends. He gets to be proud he is gay. He gets to be out for a whole day and celebrate who he is.
This conversation did not take place waiting in one line but throughout the day as I invited Randy to hang out with us. He greatly appreciated this because he said most gay guys just whisper and stare at him because he is alone. (Of course I had to admit that is what peaked my curiosity when I first saw him.)
When it gets hot later in the afternoon most people start heading home. This is also when the storms start rolling in. It starts to pour and we sit under one of the covered restaurants until it stops. At this point, most people are giving up and leaving to get ready for their evening parties. My friends start heading out and I asked Randy if he is ready to go. He
said he was staying to see the fireworks. This was his whole day and he
did not want miss a minute if it. He didn't have the money to attend any of the other high price events and he really wasn't here for the parties but just to enjoy his day with other gay and lesbian people.
I stayed with Randy until after the Fireworks and gave him a ride to his hotel. He thanked me for inviting him to join us and we promised to keep in touch.
Spending time with Randy showed me a perspective I never thought about. These pride events are more than just a fun time together as it some people's only chance to be with other gay and lesbian people and to celebrate who they are. To feel free, loved and part of a greater community which could be found where they live.
After since that experience, I have always made sure I made the time to attend at least one pride event. To celebrate my gay pride not only for myself but for the many who can not make it.
I would love to hear about your experiences with pride events. I looking for you to share your positive experiences you have had while at an event in the past or this year.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Michael Moniz is a life coach focusing on the LGBT community. His practice helps others
with self-image, communication skills, self-leadership and setting and achieving goals. Check Michael's website for more information and to schedule private consultations.
Do you have a question about how to improve your life? Send an e-mail to [email protected]