"But why don't we have straight pride?" "I don't mind them really, I'd just rather they didn't shove it down my throat". "Did you see those lesbians holding hands?" "Do you have a boyfriend?"
These moments are usually filled with silence. The room is suddenly so quiet, that I can almost hear my fear in the key holes, tucked away inside draws, behind laws, In the space between us.
I sit there and I swallow my pride. I swallow the thoughts of years of coming to terms with who I was and kissing boys to try and feel the way I was supposed to. I swallow walking down streets and staring at strangers, trying to figure out who I found the most attractive. I swallow every time I used to think to myself "It's not real. I'm making it all up. I'm not gay". I swallow the first time I said it out loud. I swallow the first time I was proud. I swallow the way I traced her freckles softly in the sunlight. I swallow the fights with my father and the tears behind closed doors. I swallow the stares in public and the glares and hushed whispers that stayed with me for days. I swallow every time someone would say "but you don't look gay". I swallow being told I can't take a joke. I swallow teachers talking about "homosexuals" as if there were none sitting in the room before them. I swallow being myself. I swallow the very essence of who I am. I swallow loving who I am. I swallow reclaiming the word lesbian, the word that used to sound like a slur. Like a ***** piece of language that only lived in **** videos and his wastepaper bin. I swallow falling in love with women. I swallow each time I stared at my body, and didn't recognise myself. I swallow all the shame in the world. I swallow my pride.
But then fifty voices are swallowed. One hundred loving hands. Two thousand threckles. 20 different countries. 1 million breaths. Fifty hearts whose beats echoed in pride.
And suddenly, I stop swallowing, and start living. For they can take our lives, but they will not take our pride.
Written in memory of those who lost their lives in the Orlando shooting