May 28, 2024

pride and liberation

the castro theater in San Francisco, California
photo caption: rainbow flags adorn a streetlight outside the castro theater in san francisco. they’re weathered and faded in the sun. i’m sure those flags have seen a lot!

I still remember the afternoon of the day I came out as gay. There were rumors floating around my family. A few of my friends had guessed the truth before that night, but I denied it was true. That afternoon I felt terrified. I spent years hiding who I was. Years trying to smooth out or distract from the parts of myself I thought I needed to feel ashamed about. I spent my youth trying to control the stories that other people thought about me. Now, on this afternoon, all that hard work was starting to crumble.

I went for a run near the end of my terrifying afternoon. I lived on the edge of Braes Bayou in Houston. It was October. The air was cool and humid, meaning the air was still warm but a mild breeze stirred as the sun went down. I thought about my options. I thought about my life. I began to wonder what all the deception had been for. There were so many unknowns I was afraid of that it rarely occurred to me that there could be unknowns full of pure joy. As the last beams of light slipped over the horizon, the streetlights above my head clicked on. I thought to myself, “why fucking not?”

I still remember the evening of the day I came out as gay. I called my parents. I called my sister. I called my best friend. I told my roommate. I called more and more people as the night went on. I sent emails to even more. Every single person I talked to that night helped me cart away another wheelbarrow of doubt. I was doing it! I was beginning to get free.

I won’t dwell too much on the reactions. They weren’t all positive, but that became besides the point. That night it felt like no reaction was worth blurring the lines of who I was. It wasn’t easy growing up gay in Texas, but I did it. I survived in whatever ways I could. That night my jaded cynicism, calcified over many years, began to dissolve.

I made new friends, people who knew the real me from the start. I experienced so much that hadn’t seemed likely or possible in my former life. I’m still working to unlearn what I had learned about survival. I know there’s something better than survival now. I’m learning to thrive in spite of the day to day oppression caused by homophobia and rage.

I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud to be queer! The essence of pride for me is liberation. It’s about joy! Pleasure! Freedom! It’s more than rejecting the arbitrary morals of unhappy people in dominant society. It’s feeling comfort being the person I am.

To all my LGBTQIA+ friends and family: I wish you peace, safety, joy, and liberation. Happy pride!

my name is josh martinez. i have always loved trying to understand systems, and the systems that built those systems. i spend a lot of time thinking about how to get there from here.

i own and operate a consulting practice, Future Emergent.

say hello: josh[at]