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Guest Essay

Guest Essay: Celebrating the Right to Feel Joy in My Identity

  By Peter Bertoldo
  Thursday, July 27, 2023

Recently, reflecting on the state of affairs for LGBTQ+ people in the United States has become an increasingly depressing endeavor. Between the ignorant screeching of woefully misguided individuals, the cruel and unnecessary legislative action against queer people and ideas, and the halting of allyship from once supportive brands, it’s become clear that our hard-won rights are once again up for debate. The recent shifting tide towards antagonizing queer and trans individuals has been deeply sad and frustrating. These scary times give us pause and force us to recall the uncertain times we experienced before we found community.

I have been extraordinarily privileged, having grown up White and middle-class with supportive parents. I recognize that this is far from the case for many people in my community. Even with these advantages, growing up queer can be difficult, isolating, and even terrifying. I remember the constant shame and discomfort in childhood, knowing I had a poorly kept gay secret. I was uneasy in many spaces and kept falling short of gendered goalposts that society had for me. It is impossible to feel like a full participant in anything when you are in constant fear of being discovered. Even after coming out, I felt simultaneously isolated from my peers and closely examined under their microscope.

This Pride, I am reflecting on all the wonderful things that happened once I was embraced by an affirming queer community. My adult life is brighter and more exciting than I could ever have imagined as an anxious, limp-wristed teenager. The gay markers that I once hated for betraying me to bullies have brought so many wonderful friends into my life. I have carved out an existence where I can exist authentically in every space I inhabit; personally, and professionally. I am filled with gratitude for the queerness that I was once made to feel was a burden.

To me, Pride has been about celebrating the right to feel joy in my identity. In these uncertain times, my hope is that Pride can continue to be a time for celebration but also a time for reminding the greater community that we are deserving of kindness and respect. This should be a time to show those who may be struggling with their identity that happiness and fulfillment are attainable without compromising our essence. We cannot allow the loudest and most ignorant voices to erase the progress that we have made toward equality. This Pride I will celebrate with even more joy, love, and volume in order to drown out their noise.

Peter Bertoldo is a financial analyst and staff diversity officer at the School of Nursing. This essay appeared in the School of Nursing Council for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion's (CoDEI) July 2023 newsletter.

Categories: Diversity

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