Out of all my years as an openly queer woman, could you believe that I had never been to a single pride?
Not like I could have gone to the ones back home- I was either too busy with school, had no one to go with, or didn’t think that my parents would be supportive of me attending at the time.
Earlier this month I went with a group of friends to Fort Lauderdale’s pride festival and arguably had one of the best times of my life.
We spent about an hour trying to round everyone in the carpool up; not everyone in the infamous group chat (named by yours truly) “How Many Gays Can Fit in 1 Car”, lived on-campus, which meant waiting around to meet up with everyone.
Once we finally got a hold of everyone and piled into one car, we were off on the hour-long voyage to Fort Lauderdale, where we all swapped our coming out stories and hardships we faced as a result of being openly LGBTQ+. I learned so much from everyone in that carpool- that I was relatively lucky to have experienced my coming out journey in the way that I had in comparison to those of my new friends.
Once we reached Fort Lauderdale, we thought the battle was over when in reality, it had just begun.
Finding parking along the shuttle route wasn’t as much of a nightmare as trying to find the hourly shuttle to pride was. We spent a little over an hour trying to track down the damn thing, running in and out of a shopping mall until we ultimately had to call a Lyft to the festival. Luckily, getting out of pride and finding the shuttle on the way back was easier than it was getting in.
In more relevant news, pride was amazing. Other than having to break my vegetarianism for an overpriced hot dog or else I would starve, it was a relatively good experience. It was like going to a gay club, but on a much larger scale and on the beach too.
I had a really great time alternating between the two dance floors (think a big, gay rave of sorts), and chatting with local LGBTQ+ friendly vendors. And yes, I bought my first body-sized pride flag. Seriously, that piece of rainbow fabric is bigger than me, even though I’m a tiny person!
We really spent most of our time dancing to music that had more bass than anything else, trying to avoid accidentally making physical contact with sweaty, often shirtless older gay men, because physical contact is already uncomfortable enough, but add a sweaty old guy into the mix and- disaster.
Once we gotten tired of sweating like crazy and being confined to small spaces because of the large crowds of people on the dance floors, we gravitated towards the beach, continuing to dance there in hopes of having more space and just cooling down as the wind blew into the night.
It was nice to just have a space where everyone knew that you were queer, but didn’t make the biggest deal out of it. You were just there to dance, eat shitty food, buy some gay swag and have a good time. It was the perfect atmosphere for a relatively new gay such as myself to be introduced into the world of pride festivals, but this experience has not prepared me enough for the craziness that is Miami Pride.
After hearing so many scarring stories about what goes down during Miami Pride, I feel like maybe after going to a few more festivals similar to the one in Fort Lauderdale and then I might feel slightly more prepared for that craziness. However, I’m very glad that I made time to meet people and carpool with a bunch of strangers (minus my friend who drove us there) and bond over the one thing that we all for sure had in common- how outspokenly queer we all were.