It was a Sunday. June 30, 2019 to be exact. I was working for an Amazon fulfillment center at the time and a few of my coworkers were persuading me to join them in the annual Pride Parade. I have two sisters that are still in high school and at the time they were 15 and 16. I thought it would be good for them to participate in something like that and experience a little culture. I signed us up. At the time, I had no idea how miserably lonely I truly was. I'm a cisgender heterosexual woman (26 then) and was dating a man whose name I'll leave out of this. We had been together for 3 years and 6 months. We spent almost 1 year living together at my parents house and another 2 years living alone. He deployed for 10 months during that time period, and I stayed with him. We adopted 2 cats. And I was 1 semester into my junior year of college. All of these numbers felt crucial to me at the time. They were measurements of a life I wanted so badly to work. I didn't want to accept how much time I had been wasting.
The girls and I drove up to Dublin, CA that morning and took the BART to San Francisco. They were so excited! Neither of them had really been to San Fransisco before. From there, we ubered to our designated meet up spot. Amazon was gracious enough to provide all of us with a free breakfast and a matching black t-shirt to wear in unison. My coworkers were there and handed us a free rainbow flag each, some rainbow body paint, and glitter sunscreen. As we got fully decked out in bright colors, I remember soaking in the moment. There were bubbles in the air, rainbow colors as far as the eye can see, and "Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish was bumping through the speakers. I started to feel something I hadn't felt in a long time: happiness.
One of the incredible parts of being in a parade is that you get to watch the crowd. There were so many people there holding up signs that spoke their truth. I admired their honesty. Women walked down the street wearing virtually nothing but a g-string and nipple pasties. There were grown women holding signs offering to love children whose parents disowned them for being LGBTQIA+. There were gay and lesbian couples kissing on the sidelines without any fear of being judged. As I marched, I felt this overwhelming rush of love coming from the crowd. It wasn't just the gay couples that caught my eye, but the straight ones. Boyfriends holding their girlfriends tight and waving at us as we walked by. I remember thinking, "I want to be loved. I want that." As I looked out at all the happy couples on the sidelines. I realized that I didn't feel love in my own relationship. That day, I manifested something.
After the parade, I took my sisters home and headed back to the apartment I shared with my then-boyfriend. I wanted to tell him about the incredible day I had and how funny it was that I had a heart shaped sunburn on my forehead. He brushed me off and went into his room to play video games. I confronted him about his behavior and within an hour of me being home the two of us broke up. The year that followed our breakup was the hardest of my life. I was almost homeless. I almost had to quit my job. I almost had to drop out of college. But I didn't. I pulled through and I manifested a new life for myself that was free of being disrespected and not being loved the way I deserved. I lost 60 lbs after that and ended up meeting my current boyfriend, Tyler.
It's ironic to me that he was at the Pride Parade too. He actually arrived around the same time I was leaving. He told me he went with a girl he had a very toxic relationship with and that he can also remember distinctly looking at the happy people there and wishing for that kind of love in his life. I can't say for sure that the universe brought our souls together that day because we didn't actually meet until 10 months later. However, it's a nice sentiment. I consider myself to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. Not because I have relatives that are, not because I have friends that are, but because their love literally brought my broken heart back to life. I was forever changed after that day and I want to be part of the solution to the problems our heteronormative society has created to push them out.
To me, being an ally means having a heterosexual relationship that doesn't limit itself to the constructs society places on us. LGBTQIA+ romantic relationships do not work in a heterosexual format, and that is okay! Mine honestly doesn't either. I like to refer to my boyfriend as my partner. I think this can help other people feel comfortable talking about their partners without having to explain to me that they aren't straight. I've taken college courses on human sexualities and social sexualities to educate myself, and I highly recommend doing the same if possible.
I think very differently now about people in that community because I 1. Took time to learn as much as I can about them and 2. Made peace with the fact that I don't HAVE to understand them in order to respect them. In my experience, a lot of people in that LGBTQIA+ community are more than willing to answer any questions you have about them. Be respectful, but don't be afraid. They'd rather explain to you their truth than have you buy into misconstrued notions of what society tells you they are. Believe it or not, even the LGBTQIA+ community doesn't fully represent everybody.
My boyfriend cooks and cleans as much as I do, if not more. We both pay bills. We both are pursuing our career and education goals. We don't label things as "woman work" or "mans work" it's all just "work". There is no "man" or "woman" in a gay/lesbian relationship. No one person should have to lessen their feminine or masculine side to fit a role. My boyfriend has feminine qualities and I have masculine ones. We aren't suppressing them to fit into a role. If anything, we respect the community and want to continue to learn ways to normalize a more open culture.
I truly think straight couples could learn to be more open about their gender roles. Women can totally propose to their boyfriend's (I know this might sound shocking but it's true!). Adoption doesn't have to just be last reserve option for old people and gay couples, young straight couples can too! Men can stay at home and raise the babies while their wives pursue careers. Straight women can absolutely date men younger, shorter, skinnier, and less financially stable as they are (and vice versa!). These things don't have to define us anymore or hold us back from living OUR best lives!
I have the utmost respect for the LGBTQIA+ community and as I get older and educate myself more, I hope to find many new ways of incorporating their culture into my life. I recognize that I belong to the majority. Without the support of the majority, the minority doesn't have a chance to create major change. It's time to stop putting people in boxes and realize that when we wipe away the limitations, ALL of us become free.