How LA Pride's Incredible Diversity Made Me Comfortable Being Gay

by Zara Barrie
Celine Rahman

West Coast Queer Kittens, it's LA PRIDE! I  can't even express how deliriously happy this makes queer little me. Those of you who know me are probably thinking, Zara Babe aren't you a Manhattan bitch who will live and die in New York City? Don't fret my hardcore city gays, I haven't gone bi (coastal) on you (yet).

While I most definitely identify as a tried-and-true East Coast lesbian, it's no secret that I also identify as a woman with a past. And a pivotal part of my ~mysterious~ past takes place in the luscious, palm-tree adorned, perfectly lit, gay wonderland that is West Hollywood. In fact, one could argue that it was during the summer of 2005 in Southern California that I first became comfortable with my sexuality.

Lez be real, I've known I was a homosexual girl-creature since the first time I went down on a girl in the seventh grade (TMI, but I'm trying to be journalistic, so brutal honesty is pivotal). Sadly, I swam in this dangerous river called Denial for a long time before I came out. And honey, that river is cold!

Los Angeles Pride is a huge part of why I finally came out. But let's backtrack for one sec.

Alone, at a vulnerable 17 years old, I moved to Los Angeles with gold-gilded dreams of being an actress. I know I'm a nightmare cliché, but I never claimed not to be! What were you expecting? Come on, I'm a fashion-crazed, mascara lesbian with delusions of grandeur; glittery Hollywood dreams just go with the territory!

Anyway, a huge part of the reason that I was ~closeted~ for so long was because I thought that I would never have a successful career as a "leading lady" if I were to crawl out of that stifling little closet (and trust me, there are no designer clothes in there, girl, and you know I looked). I was afraid no one would ever be able to see past my queerness. I was equally terrified that I wouldn't ever fit into the queer community. I had never met a lesbian who devoured fashion magazines, had a magnetic draw to the lipstick counter and was deeply invested in her collection of pretty things -- other than myself, that is.

Disclaimer: I'm not knocking any kind of lesbian here. I feverishly love all lesbians, unconditionally. I'm equally obsessed with you regardless of your style, look or hobbies. Anyone who plays on my team is my kind of babe and no girl is safe.

I'm just saying that, at the time, I felt pretty alienated. I didn't know how diverse our community was. I didn't share any interests with the only lesbians I knew (which were maybe, like, six). I was worried I was a fucking weirdo dyke who would never fit in anywhere. Between deep feelings of alienation and a fear for my career, I was scared straight -- literally.

UNTIL BAM. Girl ventured to the wild, wild west. Not only did I go west, I went to LA PRIDE and had a life-changing experience. I tagged along with a few gay guys from acting class, and the moment I set one mega-platformed foot onto Santa Monica Blvd. and peered out into the teeming sea of diverse queers, I just about died (in a good way).

There were beautiful boys kissing other beautiful boys without an ounce of shame or fear. There were long-lashed girls sporting Malibu tans and crop tops kissing other long-lashed, tan, crop-topped girls passionately as if they were the only two existing in the world. There were girls with short hair rocking preppy polo shirts holding hands with other short-haired girls rocking preppy polo shirts. There were boys in epic, bedazzled dresses snuggling boys in distressed denim. There were girls with tattoos and mohawks delicately cuddling girls in long, floaty dresses. It was beautiful mayhem.

There were no rules. LA Pride taught me that there was no proper way to be a lesbian. It taught me to say: "SCREW the stereotypes, SCREW the rules and just be whoever you are."

I can't express to you how much the diversity in style, race and type impacted my entire life. In an instant, my world was transformed. I had a moment of acute realization. I learned that I could be the fashion-crazed, aspiring actress, weirdo Zara and still fit into the gay community. Because clearly, no one in LA had gotten the memo that lesbians are supposed to look like "X" and gay men are supposed to look like "Y," or that girls should like "X" and boys, "Y." LA is missing a lot of memos, and it's a pretty badass place because of it.

It was there, at LA Pride in 2005, that I became comfortable in my own skin. Before that experience, I had an incessant underlying anxiety lingering beneath the surface. That anxiety lifted when I was exposed to the diversity of West Hollywood.

Now I'm an older, wiser (well, maybe that's questionable), gay who has been to many a pride parade in her 30 years on planet Earth. But LA pride will always hold a special place in my homo heart. If I wasn't at a family wedding in fucking SPAIN, I would be there, twirling around with all of you, my precious West Coast queer babies. SO GO. It's so important that we all go to as many Prides as possible, because when a young, vulnerable, closeted 17-year-old sees confident, fearless people like YOU having a blast at Pride -- it's life changing.

Read my West Coast girl, Elite Daily staff writer Kate Ryan's ultimate guide to celebrating LOVE at LA Pride -- plus be sure to check out all of our exciting Elite Daily Queer Culture content.