Experiencing Pride Month in D.C.

2019 Capital Pride Festival - Image via Flickr / Ted Eytan

Capital Pride is about finding the Pride celebration that makes you happy.

When June 8 finally arrived, I nearly jumped with excitement because I could finally go to a Pride Parade for the first time. June is Pride Month, when queer people organize celebrations of queer community and identity. My hometown is 6,000 people and my college city is 8,000 people, and large Pride events don’t really exist in those communities yet, so I was excited to see what Pride was like in a bigger city. On the other hand, I felt hesitant because a lot of Pride events are inaccessible to me as an autistic person because I experience sensory overload frequently, and Pride often involves loud noises and flashing lights. I felt some pressure to go because it was depicted as a required rite of passage for me to feel part of the queer community. However, Pride ended up sparking some realizations about what Pride means to me.

I went to the D.C. Capital Pride Parade at DuPont Circle with a couple of friends; we arrived early so we could find a spot in the shade. At 4:30, the parade passed by us, and we cheered for all the groups and floats that marched. By 6:30, the parade was still far from over and all I wanted to do was leave with my friends and eat dinner. Standing for two hours with so many people was exhausting and the noise was overwhelming. I hoped tomorrow would be a better experience.

Pride ended up sparking some realizations about what Pride means to me.

Eryn Star

The next day I went to the Capital Pride Festival with the same friends and met up with Genderqueer D.C. (one of the support groups from the D.C. Center, an organization that gives empowerment and connection to the queer community). Before heading to the festival, we sat and talked about our experiences with gender identity in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard. Looking back, I wished we spent all of Pride just talking in the Kogod Courtyard. When we entered the festival every space in the street was packed with people. It was almost impossible to talk to any of my friends and there were so many booths that I couldn’t process most of what was going on. Eventually, I was hungry and wanted to get away from the crowd, so I left with two friends, played Super Mario Party, and died of laughter watching “Nailed It!” In that moment, I had an epiphany -- this private social gathering with my chosen family is Pride for me.

That realization did come with slight sadness around how public pride events aren’t accessible for me as a disabled person. Yet, my epiphany is a beautiful one. I am myself in quiet queer spaces. I hope queer communities become more willing to work with disabled queer people to create more quiet queer spaces in the future. I’m not less of a queer person for not celebrating pride in a crowd. Laughing with chosen family in an apartment and quiet, profound discussions in a courtyard where I get to proudly share my disabled and queer identities is MY Pride. 

To queer students at TWC who want to go to big Pride events during Pride month: they may be really fun for you! However, it is absolutely valid if you find your own way to enjoy Pride! You may find that a night watching queer movies in your apartment or a support group discussion in a meeting space is right for you. Ultimately, Capital Pride is about finding the Pride celebration that makes you happy. 

Eryn Star, Washington Center Student Blogger, Summer 2019

Eryn is a student at Albion College in Albion, Michigan where she is studying Sociology and English. Eryn is a Summer 2019 intern with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), a disability justice advocacy organization that works to advance independent living and the rights of people with disabilities.