(This post originally appeared HERE on the GLAAD blog.)
There are few things I look forward to more in the calendar year than New York City’s Pride Parade. Anderson Cooper said it best, “….being gay is certainly one of the greatest blessings.” Growing up, noticing I definitely wasn’t heterosexual, I didn’t always agree with Mr. Cooper’s sentiments, until I visited Cherry Grove for the very first time in 2005.
I had just turned 16, and the minute I stepped on the Cherry Grove dock, I could literally feel a sort of kinetic pulse and energy emanating from the community, but I couldn’t identify a source. All I knew was that I was mesmerized. Everywhere I looked, I saw joy. I saw gratitude. I saw positivity. Seeing the smiling faces of the community I belonged to, I realized being gay was a blessing. A few weeks later, I came out to my family. Fortunately, I was born into a loving, unwaveringly supportive, and encouraging family who stood by me unconditionally while I took the first step towards realizing my authenticity.
3 years later, my Twin Sister and Mother accompanied me to the Pride Parade. Until then, they had absolutely no direct exposure to the greater LGBT community. When we found an open spot on 23rd and 5th Ave, the parade had just begun. The seemingly never-ending display of rainbow balloons, rainbow flags, sequined covered purple peace signs, intricate costume designs, celebratory music, grand floats, and larger than life regalia were reflected on the eyes of the two most important women in my life. At the Pride Parade, they felt the same energy I felt on Cherry Grove. I watched their spirits soar. My Mom kept closing her eyes with a smile on her face and inhaling deeply. I saw the contagious energy take hold of them. Every self-imposed restriction on their self-expression shattered.
That night, on the train ride home, my Mother helped me understand the energy that I was grappling to comprehend since my first visit to Cherry Grove years before. She said, with tears in her eyes of course, “You know what, Col? I have never in my entire life felt so surrounded by love than today…” It all made sense. The source that I felt on Fire Island, and the Pride Parade, were the most powerful manifestations of love I had ever experienced, and they both began with the LGBT community. At the Pride Parade, love comforted my Mother, love brought even more realization to, “…being gay is a blessing”, and, in my experiences, the Pride Parade has always been my go to symbol of love. Marching in the Pride Parade is now a tradition in my family. Each year, surrounded by love, with countless New York City residents, we march together in pride celebrating: the love among the LGBT community, our wonderful allies, the love we have for each other, the courage to pursue love, and all the blessings of love my family’s found by sharing the same last name. And, at the end of the parade, year after year, with my family by my side, I remember that there is nothing more worthy of celebrating than life’s greatest blessing…love.
Colin Bedell is a non fiction writing and journalism major at the New School, in New York. a fashion model, and member of the Model Alliance.