By Maureen Bogues
Gay Therapy Center Staff Writer
Pride—the month-long “high holy days” event for queer people—is a sort of guilt-free holiday: no family obligations, no gift-giving pressure, and no rushing to the gym after three dessert parties in a row.
We celebrate by going to shows, brunching, seeing queer films…all fun and games, right? Well, not necessarily. Pride, as it turns out, can be a lot like Christmas, Valentine’s Day or other emotionally loaded holidays: big expectations and a fear of missing out (FOMO), especially when everyone is on Facebook or other social media posting selfies of their fabulous brunches and parties.
Or how about that moment when you run into your ex at the Dyke March?
Starting to feel some angst? Trying to stay joyful? Queer feelings run high and come in all colors of the rainbow this time of year.
Sarah Brook, LCSW of New York, and Tera Beaber, Ph.D. of San Francisco, both therapists with the Gay Therapy Center, offer their thoughts and suggestions for making the best of Pride season.
“I think queer folks can experience a lot of different emotions around Pride,” Sarah said, ranging from the exhilaration of being out and proud, to the loneliness of being single or newly divorced.
Tera said a common concern facing her clients is running into exes after a recent breakup. The women’s community, even in the Bay Area, is still relatively small, so chance encounters are fairly common.
“One of things I know comes up for people who might be single or newly single is the ‘compare and despair’ mentality,” she said, or the idea that all other lesbians “look happy and in love and you’re the only one that doesn’t have somebody.”
She reminds her clients that we often see the outside of other people’s lives, and might make false assumptions that have little to do with reality. Instead, it is better to focus on the real meaning of queer pride: being proud of our identity.
“It’s how you feel about yourself, about your identity,” Tera said.
Sarah concurs. “I encourage struggling or lonely clients to focus on the accomplishment of the journey that all of us, as queer folks, have to make,” she said. “There is great value in any journey of self-discovery, particularly one which necessarily challenges us to listen closely, against the din of the dominant culture, to the truth of who we are.”
We can celebrate how far we’ve come. We can look back and wish some things had gone differently. Staying present in the moment is a good start. It’s also good to keep a sense of humor; next year you can laugh about this year’s calamities.
Kristy Lin Billuni, a bisexual lesbian in San Francisco, said that she and her wife have learned to laugh about running into exes. “It’s one of the great rites of Pride: Which exes will we run into this year?” she said. “It has gotten to be a laughable joke about those awkward conversations with people you never wanted to see again.”
All things considered, she said that Pride gives her that warm, fuzzy glow more traditionally associated with yuletide or other holidays. “I love Pride, and am happy to reclaim it,” she said. “I really don’t have those feelings about Christmas, or other mainstream holidays, but I do have those feelings about Pride.”
Surviving, and Thriving During Pride
Both Tera and Sarah offered some suggestions for having a great, healthy Pride this year.
- Plan ahead, especially if you are newly single and are fearing an ex encounter. “You can’t predict other people, but it’s important to have a plan for yourself,” Tera said, whether it is having a friend along to support you, or avoiding certain parties or events that might cause discomfort.
- With its many parties and focus on drinking, Pride can be challenging for those in recovery. In this case, it is also good to have a plan, whether it is to attend a 12-step meeting, touching base with a sponsor, or attending activities with other people in recovery.
- For singles: Find activities that will put you in touch with a wide variety of people, such as volunteering for the Frameline Film Festival (in San Francisco), going to arts events, or marching in the trans march. “We can be really intentional about how we spend our time,” Tera said. “Find something that is meaningful to you, a way to be connected and contribute to our community, and let your attention and focus be on that.”
- Pick a few things to do, instead of being overwhelmed with choices, and know your limitations re: being in a crowd. Don’t be afraid to take quiet time when you need it.
And finally, “It’s good to remember that everyone at Pride just wants to have a good time,” Tera said. “Go to events with the best intentions, maybe focusing on creating new memories, and making this Pride different.”