Iwas late to my first PrideDay this Sunday. My friends and I decided to walk there, having missed the parade, but arrived at Penn’s Landing for the last couple of hours of the festival. We paid our 10 dollars for the wristband, walked past rows of merchandise and finally sat down on some steps with a good enough view just as “Hula Hoop Girl” was preparing to take the stage.
All around us, people were taking pictures, talking, cheering and proudly displaying their pride. Wherever I looked, there were rainbows: the prerequisite flags of course, but also on tights, tutus, umbrellas and mohawks. After the performances had ended and the dance party had resumed, my friends and I wandered around, eager to find a souvenir to remember the day by.
When I first started identifying as pansexual, I remember wanting to immediately find others who identified the same way. It was really the same impulse as when I became a vegan. This is a big part of my personality, I thought to myself, I want to meet others who I can talk about this experience with. Much in the same way as I had previously sported Tofurky pins on my bookbag and “meat is murder” stickers on my phone, I was now wearing pink, yellow and blue bracelets to create a flag on my wrist and shopping for pansexual pride armwarmers.
I immediately began looking through all the pins I could find, seeking the pink, yellow and blue horizontal stripes that make up the pansexual flag. I sifted through tons of rainbow, transgender, bear and bisexual pins, but couldn’t find my flag. I had expected this, since pansexual seems to be a relatively new, and often controversial, term in the queer lexicon — a group still butting heads with bisexuals over distinctions, and still subject to suspicion about the authenticity of our attractions.
Still on the lookout, I wandered further until I found Rainbow Alternative’s booth, with beautiful spray painted tees, bags and a whole box of pins on prominent display. I picked out two and my friend picked out a third for me.
As my friend continued debating her choices, I wandered over to Galaei’s booth, a local “queer Latin@ social justice organization.” I secured myself a purple “Soy Queer Latin@” pin, with the proceeds going to their upcoming annual alternative prom. As soon as I got home, I attached them to my bag in a neat little square of colorful phrases. I stared happily at my purchases, my miniature personal identifiers.
As I looked down at my pins, I started thinking about my need to physically display my personality. Why was it so important to me that people could recognize the pride colors on my wrist, the Guatemalan flag on my books, the soy product brand on my bookbag? Thinking back to PrideDay, I realize that this need might not be unique to me.
There is a sense of comfort in being able to quickly and easily recognize others who identify the same way you do, be it because of their ancestry, their political beliefs or their sexual or gender orientation. It gives you something to talk about, to put you at ease. I feel the same way when I spot another Penn sweatshirt in the airport back home, or the University of Florida’s Gators logo on Locust Walk. We like to feel we belong to a greater community, that we have something in common with the people around us. Pride, much as I had hoped it would be, felt like that for me. Sure, I would have liked to see a couple of pansexual stickers on a table or two — I’m sure there were people there wishing the same thing about asexual or genderqueer insignia. Overall, however, it was a positive experience.
I’m still trying to connect with this part of my identity. The support I’ve received from Penn’s LGBT center has been a big part of it. Finding online blogs, sites and communities has also been important. And now, having attended Pride, and knowing that, according to the MC, over 10,000 people attended this year’s Philly PrideDay, I feel a greater connection to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community and proudly display this connection for all to see.
Yessenia Gutierrez is a rising College senior from Hollywood, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her @YessiWrites. “Yessi can” runs biweekly during the summer.
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