As your collective lesbian big sister, I have a very important public service announcement I am compelled to bestow upon all of you: Don’t let your summer body anxiety screw up Pride WorldPride 2019 | Stonewall 50 for you.
Let me tell you a little story about how I ruined Pride for myself last year.
I had a tough winter last year, man. I got an ~amazing~ creative opportunity that promptly fell apart in front of my eyes. I fell into a whirlwind toxic friendship (those breakups are harrowing). I ran out of money and had to swiftly stop seeing my fantastic Gramercy Park psychiatrist. Instead, I saw a far cheaper doctor—a Murray Hill doctor who wore bright blue tracksuits and had antique stethoscopes displayed across his office. (That’s a very strange decorative choice for a doctor prescribing psych meds to vulnerable New Yorkers, don’t you think?) He took me off the medication that was working perfectly well for me and instead put me on a stimulant that left me completely depressed and insane.
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By the time Pride rolled around, I was a complete mess—on the inside, that is. Since my name might as well be called “Zara Hiding Her Problems Amazingly Well Barrie,” no one with the exception of my girlfriend really knew about the storm escalating inside of me. I felt out of control on the inside, and when I feel out of control on the inside, I attempt to deflect from what’s really going on and instead obsess about the outside. As in: my body. My weight. My looks. Nasty, I know, but I think a lot of us do that.
It didn’t help that Pride season happens to fall in June. That oh-so-wonderful time of year when East Coasters like moi shed ourselves of our fluffy winter armor and reveal our naked, raw flesh. It’s a very vulnerable feeling to go from being buttoned up to the chin in stealth winter attire to all of a sudden completely exposed in a sleeveless shirt, bare skin reeling in the uncomfortable new feeling of sunlight stabbing the epidermis like daggers into the heart! (I have a theory that’s why all drink so much in the early summer. We get wasted at the pool to quell the body insecurity.)
Not only did I feel body anxiety because it was summer and June, but I also felt the Pride pressure. New Yorkers (especially lesbians) have a tendency to, uh, “hibernate” in the winter (AKA U-HAUL). June is like one giant debutante ball for the gay community, where we dress to the nines and present ourselves to one another. Starting June 1st, you’re asked to attend these sexy, amazing Pride parties that are FULL of the sexiest, most amazing human beings you’ve ever encountered.
“Why I don’t I ever see women like that in the winter?” I hissed last summer to my girlfriend — pointing my bitchy index finger at some mega babe clad in skin-tight pleather pants and a sheer white tank. Before my girlfriend even had the chance to mutter “I don’t know,” I found myself spiraling down the dark rabbit hole.
I hate my body. I don’t even want to go to all these Pride parties with all these hot half-naked people because I’m so ugly it’s embarrassing. I wish it was winter even though I hate the winter; I just hate my body even more than I hate the winter!
And, instead of having fun, instead of plugging into the glorious love and unity that is Pride, I self-loathed. And I know it wasn’t just me.
“I don’t want to go to this fabulous Pride pool party at the Soho house, because I don’t want to take my shirt off,” my close friend Collin* confessed to me, uncomfortably crossing his arms over his stomach.
“I can’t take a picture next to that model looking creature!” trembled my friend *Dorothy, who had broken out into (actual) hives that smattered across her freshly exposed, winter white shoulders. “They want to take a group picture, but if this model looking creature is going to be in the shot, I’m going home!”
“EVERYONE THERE IS GOING TO BE SO BEAUTIFUL, AND I AM AN UGLY PIECE OF SHIT!” my friend Lola* screamed before we left my apartment to attend an amazing lesbian party that featured one of her favorite DJs.
Even just scanning my eyes across the room of any given party, I could see people like myself. People who weren’t fully immersed in the beauty and the liberation and the history of Pride because they were too knee-deep in their anxious self-hating narrative.
It wasn’t until the last day of Pride when I realized how much time I had wasted on body anxiety during this beautiful season.
I was walking home from the parade and the streets were covered in rainbow streamers and glitter. Suddenly, I tapped into the moment and heard this beautiful chorus. I stopped in my tracks, time stood still, and I just listened. The chorus was made up of voices, voices of people from all over the world speaking in different languages, with different accents, creating this really sophisticated resonance that permeated throughout the city. It was so joyful I wanted to cry. It was the sound of people embracing their sexuality. It was the sound of people basking in these beautiful last moments of total freedom before they had to go back to a dark, repressed reality. It was the sound of pure, unabashed love.
I began to think about the Stonewall riots and Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. I began to think of my queer elders who put everything on the line in order for me to be comfortable in my skin (and here I was, so wildly uncomfortable). I decided in honor of them, in honor of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer angels who suffered and sacrificed and fought for sexual freedom (the rawest freedom one can attain), I would get the f*ck over myself. And instead, I would tap into this beautiful Pride feeling. It wasn’t too late. I still had a couple of hours left.
While I’m glad I finally was able to cut myself loose from the shackles of body anxiety, I couldn’t help but think about what a month of magic I wasted.
Now, I’m not saying you need to spiral over the fact that you’ve body-spiraled during Pride month, darling. Just because you’ve fallen into the body-anxiety trap of Pride doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate the history and understand the beauty of Pride. This body-loving shit is complicated; it’s nuanced as f*ck. The world has set us up to feel this way about ourselves and our bodies it’s a goddamn hard habit to break. Plus, Pride is so intense, that it can also make us ~feel~ things. It can remind us of the hardships we ourselves have endured in our gay little lives. And when we feel things and are struck with painful memories, it’s easy to want to focus on things like “does my ass look good in these jeans?” instead.
So, here is my advice: If you’ve got body anxiety during WorldPride, don’t beat yourself up. Just take a second and focus on the present moment, because each moment during the month of June is breathing with life! And life is energy, baby. And energy is the most powerful thing in the world. It has the ability to pull you out of your shame and ground you into the earth and let you finally experience its unbelievable power. All you have to do is embrace the WorldPride energy and she’ll embrace you right back.
I look back on pictures of myself during Pride, and, even if I don’t look “perfect,” I look beautiful. The Pride angels have dusted my bones with glitter, the body anxiety is gone, and my skin is ripe with the “gay glow.” The “gay glow,” by the way, is a glow that all of us gays have. It’s bestowed unto us the minute we strut out of the closet and it’s always there, no matter how we old we are or how many hangovers we have.
Maybe the reason Pride month is in June is so our gay glow is intensified by the beautiful, shiny sun. And this year is WorldPride. We’re going to collectively shine like the top of the Chrysler building! No need to worry about our bodies when we shine that brightly. That kind of brightness is bigger and more profound than a single body could ever be.