I’ve always been too nervous to go to Pride. I came out when I was in high school, but I always felt this kind of dissociation with the queer community because of my family’s background. I grew up in a semi-Catholic Latino household and had a lot of shame and resentment around my identity. I wasn't in a space mentally where I felt comfortable going to Pride and being around so many queer people that were so happy with themselves when I wasn’t quite there yet. Until now.
This year, after turning 21, I’ve become far more comfortable with myself and made the decision to finally make my Pride debut. Still, I was extremely nervous on my car ride to the parade and couldn’t shake my intimidated feeling. But the moment I got on Santa Monica Boulevard, all my stress and anxieties went straight out the window. It was absolutely beautiful to see how many people were there—all the floats, the signs, the outfits. Everybody looked so friendly and all of a sudden I had a rush of energy. I truly felt amazing once I was there.
It definitely helped that everyone there was such a joy to be around. I wasn't expecting everybody to be so nice. I'm a little more used to people being closed off and less accepting, but entering the space, everybody smiled and everyone hugged. Even the subtle eye contact I would make with people in the crowd, it felt like: I see you, you see me, I love you and you love me, and we're here trying to be the best that we can right now. At one point during the parade, I started tearing up because I was so overwhelmed with everybody around me. The phrase that kept going through my head every time I saw somebody's face was: you're so beautiful, and I felt proud to be there with all those people around me.
The scene was unlike anything I’d seen before. Some people were freeing the nipple, everyone was smiling from ear to ear, and often I would look at the crowd and be like you're wearing the most amazing garment I've ever seen in my life. The creativity that is essential to the queer community always astounds me.
Another thing that meant a lot to me was seeing so many different people of color in the crowd. I think a lot of people of color have trouble coming out of the closet because you see this depiction of people coming out, but they're always white and it scares you even more because it's like: Well what will happen if I come out to my Mexican mother? It made me feel even more at home because I knew that a lot of them didn’t have to just come out, but also had to face both the homophobia here in the US and that of their respective cultures, like I did.
At one point, I ran into one of my buddies that I met at a concert about a year ago and I integrated with his group, and after a while, some members of the group were like, "Where has this queer boy been? Why hasn't he been around!?" talking about me! I was like okay, this is that sense of belonging, of community, of camaraderie that people talk about when they talk about the queer community.
It was a day full of love, and I was surrounded by so many people of color—I felt at home, I really did feel at home.
Throughout the day, I captured some of the scenes and faces that contributed to the welcoming ambiance.