As Pride Month winds down, some members of our board would like to take this opportunity to discuss the meaning of Pride in their personal lives. As board members of an LGBTQIA organization, Pride has a special place in our hearts!
Jamie Hansen - Public Relations & Social Outreach
I am from a small town in Nebraska. I grew up there in the 80's and 90's. It wasn't exactly the most inclusive place in the world. To give you an idea of what I mean, read this article from 2014 about how my town treats Latino residents.
So, there's that.
To be totally honest, I didn't understand how I was different for a really long time - and certainly not while I was living in Nebraska - just that I was. I could never place why I didn't feel like I belonged. I played a lot of sports, I was in drama and music, I knew people. I wasn't popular, but I wasn't unknown, I guess. To put it simply: I just felt like I was...wrong. All the time.
I moved to St. Louis to go to college in 1999. Webster University was the most liberal place I had ever been. I mean, they had a drag review each year. It blew my mind. But even then, I was dating men (not that there's anything wrong with that). I use the word 'date' loosely. I can count on one hand how many relationships I've had. I keep to myself for the most part; there's so much shame attached, I think, to being my age and still struggling with who I want to be and how I wish to present myself.
But I digress.
In about 2010, a friend of mine talked about what a great time he had playing Team Saint Louis Kickball. I joined him one day and, not to be overly cliché, it was like a lightbulb went off for me. These were my people. And it wasn't even about sexuality - not right away. It was more a come-as-you-are vibe. Just be you. Cool!
Fast forward a few years and I ran that very league (not well, but I tried real hard); a decade later, I'm a board member of an LGBTQI organization I care deeply about. Most people in my life know I am not straight. But I think what's most important is that I feel safe not having to label myself. For a long time I was so worried about identifying as something that I shied away from everything.
Last year, when I worked at the USTA, I composed the quote pictured above for Pride Month. As a 43-year-old person, that was the first time I'd publicly alluded to my sexuality. You'll notice the quote doesn't mention it; that was strategic. Shame is a helluva motivator.
So, what does Pride mean to me?
Pride is being able to take this time and acknowledge those before us paving the way so I can even write a blog about my confused old self. It's about understanding where we've been and where we want to be, especially in light of all the legislation attempting to silence us. It's about helping the generations after us understand there are people out there who. just. get. it. We're out here.