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Maxwell's Billet-Doux: With a little help from my friend

Billet-Doux: n. (bĭl'ā dōō, or "billa doo") A love letter. (literally "sweet letter" in French)

With Pride and CityFest now being only distant memories we look to future with bright expectations for next year's festivities.

But shouldn't Pride be celebrated year-round? I was having difficulty grasping my own personal pride this year, so I looked to a friend to help reignite the flame and make me shine again.

Lets start at the beginning.

I grew up with a very accepting family. When I came out at age 18 there wasn't a question. There wasn't a why, a what did we do wrong? There were just open arms and a natural sigh of relief.

I must admit I tried hiding it all those years, however, everyone everywhere seemed to know. Let's be real, I'm no masculine macho man. I'm much more of a dandelion.

So as the years passed, I've never missed the chance to partake in any and all festivities that Hillcrest and the gay scene have had to offer, my favorite being Pride.

Pride to me means being yourself in a world that sometimes discourages it.

My first Pride was at the age of 19. I marched with the San Diego Men's Chorus down University Ave. blaring the song “Proud” and I was wearing a T-shirt that stated our group was "orally gifted."

At 20, I was platinum blonde and determined to find my one true love. I found him – as well as a few others.

The next year came around and I was single again, but finally 21. I was shocked when I was asked to be part of a Mankind promo shoot. I couldn’t turn down the offer and let's just say that was the smallest piece of clothing the public had ever seen me in. I went to Pride with a new outlook: I could drink and not get in trouble.

Naturally I had made friends with the "girls" by then and we made a ruckus. Screaming up and down the loop bringing as much attention to us as possible, posing for pictures left and right.

The next year, I was 22 and slightly heavier from a year of drinking and going out too often, but that year I was the most proud. My sister, my best friend, made the choice to march in the parade for me, to show the world, "yes, I have a gay brother and I'm so proud of him." I only made it to the fair for a few hours that year but it was worth every minute of it.

This year, I had no clue what I was going to be doing. My biggest dilemma was what was I proud of and of course, what I was going to wear and how was I going to fit in it? I was also under pressure from peers to “conform to the norm.” People prepare months in advance for all the summer events. Going to the gym. Getting tan. Hair cuts. Waxing all areas of the body. Suddenly there it was and I was not prepared. I had fallen flat and I had no clue why.

The idea for this article hit me when I realized that I was not only conforming to a look that other people approved of, but I was not taking pride in myself, anymore. So, I decided to interview a young man who glitters with pride daily and even his exterior bares the word “fearless,” Daniel McDonald.

"Year-round pride is what I think it really should be about. I don't mean trying to go to as many Pride festivals as possible around the world, but to always have that inner [pride] to be yourself and to be proud of it no matter what society tries to tell you. You've gotta be fuc*ing fearless and ruthless and have a support system ... a group of friends to confide in," McDonald said.

Daniel is one of this city's most creative people. He is so intelligent, too, he has two bachelor degrees from UCSD and still somehow finds time to balance a fun and creative social life, as well as a wild style.

"I usually feel it out on the day of on how I'm feeling. If I feel like being an angel dominatrix then so be it ... if I feel like being simple and sweet, then I go for it ... "

Daniel aka Daniella, is the epitome of this concept, but it isn't easy to do. "It's not an easy task to always be yourself," Daniella said. "There's a lot of societal pressure to not be yourself. To be just the next molded, cookie-cutter piece. I still struggle myself to stay to my 'true colors' in the work place and with family. The energy and magic of pride definitely helps me release that pent-up, societal suffocation."

Daniella is known to show up in public in the wildest of outfits and has been to quite a few Prides herself. Not only does she have outlandish and queer outfits she actually walks in the parade. She participated in two parades this year San Francisco and San Diego.

The world had definitely come a long way in accepting gays as equal, however, we are still classified as gay or straight, male or female. We are forced to conform to these labels. Daniella is one of the bravest people I know and has a strong opinion against labels, being as she is a human and wants to fit into every title she chooses.

Even inside our own community we have given labels to each other to classify what one's body type or sexual preference is ... Twink, Bear, Cub, Blouse, etc. Daniella classifies herself as "gender queer."

“I don’t believe in binary gender identification, but as I learn more about myself, I am starting to prefer more and more to be called Daniella over Daniel, it’s just hard for people to accept in the workplace and elsewhere.” It takes a fearless human to classify themselves as a Genderqueer. You must have the ability to tell the world "I am who I am and I’m damn proud of it.”

I may have made Daniella seem unafraid, but even she has a little help from her drag persona, Swedish Sapphire. “She is a lot more fearless than I am, that's for sure. I’m actually a little jealous of her because I truly am kind of introverted, I force myself everyday to be outgoing and social and to fight my fears.” Even Beyonce, one of the greatest singers in my opinion, has had a little help from a persona she created, Sasha Fierce.

Daniella not only rekindled the spirit of Pride within my heart after speaking with her, but she also helped me realize that it comes in all shapes and sizes. I don’t have to worry about fitting into a mold, so I challenge myself and anyone who reads this to break the mold. Be yourself, show your Pride year-round and forever, not only on a weekend. Be proud of who you are, the things you do and create.

Let your individuality flag fly!

Take it from Daniel, Daniella, Swedish Sapphire and me

XOXO Dusty

Note: Do you miss Pride month already? Stay tuned for "Pride at the Beach," hosted by North County's LGBT Center, Oct 19, in Oceanside. Learn more here: North County Pride.

Photos: Top left: Dustin with his sister at Pride in 2011; Bottom: Dustin with Dorothy at Pride in 2010.

San Diego native Dustin Maxwell grew up all over America's Finest City. After graduating from Ramona High School, attending Palomar College, and a two year apprenticeship, "Dusty" became a certified hair stylist. For the last ten years, he has also performed his way around town in companies such as San Diego Gay Men's Chorus, the Starlight Theatre and a plethora of other local community theaters. Maxwell is also co-founder of an all male burlesque troupe, The Boylesque Tomcats. In his free time, he works closely with local fashion designers putting together extravagant runway shows and large social events. He currently manages a popular local eatery in the heart of downtown, as well as two specialty boutiques in the area. With his flare for performing and fashion, you are sure to see him out and about making San Diego a little more vibrant and exciting. He can be reached at MAXWELLSBILLETDOUX@aol.com