I still remember being 16 years old, walking into my new high school looking for a friendly face, scared and nervous of a brand new school where I only knew two people. One of those people was Rey, a life-long acquaintance that I'd known since the age of 3. Our parents worked together at the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, and there is a picture of us somewhere dancing together at a wedding as toddlers. Growing up, we would see each other at our parents work family gatherings and outings, and now we would be going to the same school- a school that he'd been going to since middle school.
Rey became one of my best friends in high school. He had a Britney Spears poster in his locker and wore fabulous leather pants. He was openly gay, and I loved him and admired him for it. He was always proud of who he was, and while he may not know this, he inspired me to be confident in who I was- even as an insecure 16 year old. Rey's energy gave me life and since our last names were similar, we were always seated near each other in class, and often times had to be separated for talking or laughing too much. We would hang out after school and since we both had white cars, we established our own "club" and would try to park next to each other in the school parking lot. His bubbly personality was always a bright light to me, and he always can make me laugh. Rey made a lasting impression on me, and we still try to meet and catch up whenever I'm in NYC. He will forever have a special place in my heart.
Rey and I in NYC a few years ago.
As someone who had a hard time "fitting in" the majority of my life, I would draw inspiration from others, like Rey, who didn't necessarily "fit in," but lived their lives as they wanted and didn't care what people thought. Many of these people are members of the LGBTQ community and face discrimination, adversity, and judgement due to their sexual orientation or how they identify as a gender. They are also not afforded equal rights. I am someone who firmly believes that all people- regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender, should be afforded the same civil rights and equality across the board. As an influencer, I have decided to use my platform to take a stand to better show my support for the LGBTQ community and all of my friends or idols who are LGBTQ+.
Photos by Arielle Lewis Studios
Last weekend was Pride weekend in DC. My friend Catherine of Dreamy Realist invited me to participate with her in the Pride Parade with the DC Chapter of PFLAG. PFLAG stands for Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FPLAG), and Catherine's close friend, Kira, is on the board. PFLAG is a nation wide non-profit organization that promotes the equality and well being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, families, and friends. The organization provides support to cope with an adverse society, education to enlighten an ill-informed public, and advocates to end discrimination and secure equal civil rights.
This was the first year I participated in the DC Pride Parade, although I always wanted to. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew that it was going to be great. I was excited to attend to show my support as an LGBTQ Ally and spread love to all. The parade was like nothing I have ever experienced before in my life. Part of PFLAG's mission at the parade is to give Free Hugs as a way to connect with show our support to the community. I carried a Free Hug sign for about half of the parade, hugging people of the crowd and boosting moral. People were happy and smiling, chanting "Happy Pride!" as we embraced. I hugged some who were crying and said, "Thank You" as we embraced, which made me emotional and proud I was there to support those who may be facing difficult times.
DC Pride Parade with DC PFLAG:
Images provided by DC PFLAG
The day was truly magical. I have never experienced that kind of love or support for a community ever before in my life and I will always remember this day. Thank you to DC PFLAG for having me be a part of something so special.
Love is Love.
Blonde in the District