On Facebook a friend posted a picture of a crosswalk in Fort McMurray that had been painted in pride colours, reaction on the post was mixed but the sentiment that stuck out was "Why do we need a pride crosswalk?"
I am a rookie in the pride community, I came out of the closet six months ago and I have a long way to go in terms of my own mental health and identity struggles. “Why” is a question that gets asked a lot not in just the LGBTQ community but also in many other context, “Why do we need gay characters” “Why do we need to celebrate pride?” “Why don’t we have straight pride?”
I don’t know the answer to these questions but I do know this:
The first time I saw a Pride Crosswalk was in Vancouver on Davie Street. I spent the majority of my 20’s in a pit of mental illness trying to change my sexual orientation believing if I pretended to be straight one day I would be straight.
I was afraid of the crosswalk, I was scared of being outed, and I was afraid that someone would see me in the “Gay Neighbourhood” and tell my family. I would visit Vancouver on a fairly regular basis and as time went on that neighbourhood became a place in which I would frequent to just observed. I would wander down the street on my own and I slowly, very slowly, started to recognize that this community was just like any other community.
It’s just a painted crosswalk. The power of the crosswalk is that it shows that gay, straight, queer, lesbian, bisexual are who we are. My sexual orientation is a part of me, just like a crosswalk is a part of city, it doesn’t define that city, and it doesn’t make it good, bad, evil or wrong it just is. My sexual orientation just is.
My original fear and repulsion to the crosswalk was because I saw it as an exclamation point but in reality, acts as a bridge, and a semi-colon of a continued life.
As a lesbian that out of the closet I may face homophobia, I may miss out on opportunities, I may lose out on employment or promotion, when I have a partner we may encounter a situation where it would be best to not hold hands or show affection. I know that these are the realities that I face. But to have Pride, to see the flag, the crosswalks, is to have a community, a place and a comfort. It reminds me that I am not walking by myself and when I do come to those crossroads, those difficult decisions, those uncomfortable places in life, instead of avoiding, pretending or finding another route, I cross that road and I remember that even if its not painted in pride colors that in the place that I call home, they do have a crosswalk for me.