Pride & Joy Day 9: We’re Here, We’re Queer

[Today’s donation was made to Innocence Project. Click here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

I was about eight when I asked my dad if he liked boys or girls.

“Girls, of course,” he said. “Boys are supposed to like girls.” He said this with a smile, one I’d characterize as warm and devoid of malice or suspicion. Immediately I knew there was something different with me. I didn’t tell him I liked boys. I didn’t want him to stop smiling.

My parents and I share the same love for books (they still keep volumes and volumes of outdated encyclopedias in my house in Jakarta). By ten years old, I had become fluent enough in English and I found my dad’s book about sex. In it was a chapter about homosexuality. The book didn’t say we’re bad. It simply acknowledged us and our existence. I learned I wasn’t alone and felt relieved.

I never had to come out. I’ve always been very feminine. I have photos of myself when I was a kid and if I show them to you, you’re going to ask, “Who is that flaming four-year old?”

I fit in almost every gay stereotype. I have the gay the voice, the limp wrists, the lifted pinkies, the feminine demeanor, the female idol worship. Although I don’t lisp, I absolutely hate Sex and the City, and couldn’t care less about Queer as Folk and Queer Eye and Lady Gaga.

I’m lucky to have parents and siblings who love me and protect me. I’m privileged to have straight friends who not only tolerate me and but also encourage me to express my sexuality.

I never fought for my privilege. I never fought for my rights. My narrative is so different from millions of gay people across the globe, especially those who live in a religious household or neighborhood or state or country.

But I have felt that fear of being alone, of suspecting and believing something is inherently wrong with me. And I hated it. Imagine having that fear all your life. Imagine not knowing there are people just like you, only they no longer have to be afraid to live their truth and be who they really are.

This is why we need Pride, to remind us of those who’d come before us, of those who’d fought for us, of those who are still fighting, of those who’d been jailed or killed because of their sexuality. Pride affirms our existence. Pride reminds us of us. It took (some of us) so much blood and tears and time to accept ourselves, but we’re here.

Hopefully, it’ll inspire or give comfort to those who feel alone. Hopefully, it’ll spark courage in more people to come out and share their stories.

And the world will know we’re not all that bad. That for every Jeffrey Dahmer or Aaron Schock or Jussie Smollett or Milo Yiannopoulos, there’s James Baldwin and Alan Turing and Larry Kramer and Sarah Paulson and Rufus Wainwright and Janelle Monáe and Lil Nas X and Billy Eichner and Tituss Burgess and Allen Ginsberg.

And most importantly, there’s you.

This shirt is my first ever Pride shirt. I got it from Hot Topic. I’m not a fan of the way the word “Pride” is displayed. It looks a bit wonky. But I still love it. I often wear it even when it’s not June, because being proud of what you are, of your truth, shouldn’t be confined to thirty days of the year.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.