Why Toronto Pride Matters For Those Just Coming Out
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Why Toronto Pride Matters For Those Just Coming Out

For one journalist, this year's Pride is different for all the right reasons.

Arielle Piat-Sauvé is a journalist, and a regular contributor to Torontoist. This is what Pride means to her.

When I was six years old, Pride meant sitting behind the dessert counter of a busy delicatessen in San Diego, California, where I would watch drag queens parade in one by one. Family friends owned the popular restaurant in the city’s gay village, and Pride usually coincided with our vacation. I would sit on a little stool behind the glass counter and people watch. By then my parents had already explained to me that some men like men and some women like women, and that this was more than ok. This routine stayed the same for much of my childhood. Growing up, Pride was just part of my summer vacation.

When I was 23, I had a front-row seat to World Pride in 2014. I was a year into my new life in Toronto, so I hosted a Pride party on my balcony overlooking Church Street, inviting everyone I knew. Pride, I thought as I filled up red cups of sangria for guests, was just a party. The streets below us were packed with people dancing and vendors selling memorabilia. The next day, as I nursed a bad hangover, I made my way down to the heart of the Pride Parade, alone, and I had never seen Yonge Street so packed and full of life. As I watched people celebrate and couples hold hands, I felt overcome with emotions and a sense of self-doubt. There was more to this than I appreciated on my annual trips to California.

In 2014, as the world celebrated Pride in my new city, I silently questioned my own identity.

Last year, Pride meant spending the day with the girl I liked. We cuddled in bed before braving the rain on Church Street. We had been quietly seeing each other for a while by this point, but as we held hands under the umbrella, I knew our secret was fading away.

Despite this developing relationship, in the months leading up to Pride internally I struggled with coming out. I distanced myself from those closest to me as I tried to grapple with my own identity. I worried people would look at my differently or think all of this was some kind of joke, and I feared being discriminated against for who I was. But as I began to process all of these feelings, I realized I had spent most of my life focusing on school, chasing internships, and building my career path, and no time spent thinking about who I was and whom I liked. I started to look back on all those years of never having been in a serious relationship. I thought of those first dates with boys that never led to more because I wasn’t interested in or attracted to them. And then, I pushed those negative feelings aside and focused on the present. I finally understood what all my gushing friends had been talking about, but I had never experienced: I was falling in love with someone for the first time, and that someone was a girl. Back in my apartment that same day, I told her how I felt.

Last year, Pride meant finally beginning to accept and love myself for who I am.

And so this year, at 25, Pride is taking on a whole new meaning: I’ve come out to most of my family and friends and they’ve shown nothing but love and respect. I feel blessed to have all these people supporting and accepting me for who I am—I know I am one of the lucky ones. I know I don’t have to dress a certain way or have a specific experience to be part of the LGBTQ community. And I also know that being gay means I’m part of a community that accepts me for who I am, no judging or questions asked.

The tragic shooting in Orlando increased my appreciation of the community and what it means. That night, I attended a vigil in Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village. Thousands of people gathered to remember and honour the victims, and we were told not to live in fear. And as I held hands with complete strangers next to me, I felt the strength of the solidarity that surrounded me.

Pride has more or less been a constant presence throughout my life, but this year is different.

This year I will hold hands with my girlfriend at Pride and not let go. This year I feel proud.