In recognition of June as Pride Month, we sat down with a series of queer individuals and couples to ask them about the evolution of their pride and how they have grown over the years. And from June 20th to 24th, $1 from the sale of every Evolution product will go towards the Tegan and Sara Foundation, a charity that fights for health, economic justice and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.
Carly and Michelle met almost ten years ago at a “Queers and Beers” mixer event. After realizing they had a lot in common, they began hanging out on what felt like “fake dates”, until Michelle eventually asked Carly out on a real date. Today, they live together near Toronto’s High Park where they love to relax and walk their dog, Ellie. We met with them there to hear their stories.
How are you celebrating Pride this month (if at all)?
M: We did this awkward pet photo shoot which was the “Pride edition”, so [Ellie] got her picture taken with a drag queen, which was cute. And we went to the Blue Jay’s game last Friday, which was Pride Night.
C: That’s what we’ve done so far. We’ll do stuff like the Pride Festival, and we usually go to the Trans March and the Dyke March and the parade.
Are you comfortable sharing your coming out experience? If so, what was it like?
C: I didn’t really have a big coming out thing. I started dating Michelle and I was like, “This is my girlfriend.” And that was really it. That was about 9 years ago. My family was comfortable. I didn’t make a big deal of it so no one else really made a big deal of it.
M: My brother is also gay, so he came out to my parents first. I let him take the brunt of it.
When you think back on who you were at that time, how have you grown? What’s changed?
M: It was so long ago. I came of age in the mid- to late-nineties and back then people were still not that accepting. I experienced a lot of shame. I think I knew for quite some time [that I was gay], but I was unwilling to accept it. I was young and I didn’t have the vocabulary to understand what was happening to me. I came out just after high school and the change is 180. It’s a non-issue. It’s just another thing about me.
C: I grew up in a small town and that was not the place to explore that [part of myself] and be out. Now it's very different and I feel like it’s just another thing about me. I’m older as well and when you get older, you care less about what people think. If someone has a problem with it, goodbye. It’s fine.
What does it mean for you to be proud?
M: Visibility is important. When you come out and say out loud, “I’m gay,” you’re essentially saying, “I’m here, I exist, acknowledge me.” It’s like saying, “I’m worthy. This is a thing about me and I’m still worthy.” While a lot has changed since 1995, there are a lot of people in the world who still don’t have that privilege. So for me, being proud is about giving that hope to people who are not there.
C: I agree. There’s an episode of Brooklyn 99 that I love, where [the character] Rosa comes out, and it’s so heartwarming. Her boss says, “Anytime someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place. So thank you.”
Michelle and Carly would also like to draw attention to a Toronto organization called Rainbow Railroad.
C: They help LGBTQ refugees around the world get to safety.
M: They are doing amazing work and they need help all year round.