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Having Pride in Wichita

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October 7, 2019

On September 29th, URGE Kansas members had the opportunity to be part of Wichita Pride and march in the parade. For me, it was my first time at Pride in Wichita, and for many of our members, it was their very first Pride! It was also the first time that URGE has had an official presence in the parade here. Overall, we had so much fun together, and we even had a few people shout out in support of our #AbortionPositive banner.

 For me, it was so transformative to see this side of Wichita. For too long, the local queer community had felt like it was only the small group I’d come to know through my time at college. And while there were many familiar faces, there were so many others who had come to celebrate. From the trio of older people announcing that we had allies, to the older cheerleader in a local high school uniform following along with the parade, to the pride pony with a rainbow tail, it felt like a celebration unique to Wichita. And although we need to continue the conversation about corporations in Pride, it was strangely comforting to see some local businesses marching with us. Maybe it has something to do with not having protections if I’m out at work and don’t happen to be employed by the state. Perhaps it’s living in a country that openly allows discrimination against LGBTQ+ people trying to add to their family. Who knows? 

In all honesty, though, it has been a difficult time growing up queer in Kansas. While being bi and having dated mostly men in the past means that I am not immediately a target of prejudice, it does include some anxiety. If I started dating a woman or someone who’s nonbinary, would the people in my life be okay with that? If I decided to spend my life with them, would we be able to have a family in Kansas? Hearing the news that Kansas would allow adoption agencies to receive state funds and discriminate against families that did not fit their image of an appropriate home for foster children truly shook me to my core. It reminded me that I didn’t have as many options for a future here as I thought, merely depending on the gender of my future partner. And because I primarily want to stay here to give back to my community, among other reasons, it stings a bit.

One aspect of Pride that was so heartwarming was all of the families who came out. People brought their children out to watch the parade as we passed, waving little rainbow and trans flags. There were parents with their children decked out in their gayest outfits and little kids wearing pride flags and “I heart my two gay dads” t-shirts. The organizers in Wichita have made a considerable effort to make events inclusive to families and young queer and questioning kids. That includes bounce houses and a dance for kids in middle and high school.

 Going to Pride was a healing experience for me. Lately, I’ve been bogged down by the prospect of entering the corporate world and having to condense who I am to fit in; facing doubts about myself and whether people will accept me with experience in queer and feminist organizations on my resume. But somehow, every time I saw a bi flag, my spirits raised. It felt like seeing family. Witnessing young people being free and themselves made me feel more free to do the same. Even if it just meant singing to the music and hollering louder for the fun of it. Just feeling how excited everyone was to be in the space bolstered me. It reminded me that I’m not just staying strong for myself and my future. I’m fighting for them too.

Being at Pride also reminded me of the importance of fostering joy in your life. In our weird puritanical society, it can be so hard to justify spending our time on something purely out of pleasure. For one reason or another, I’ve found myself denying the things that give me joy to focus on being productive. But I’ve learned firsthand that this is, in fact, harmful and counteractive in the long run. So I’m leaving this here for you and me to remember: joy is not only beneficial but vital to our success.

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