From Fear to Pride: A Journey of Resilience 

By Kenneth E. Noyes, Esq. 

June is an explosion of color. Rainbow flags flutter from lampposts, shop windows sport dazzling displays, and the air thrums with vibrant energy. This is Pride Month, a time that holds a special significance for me as a gay man. It's a celebration, a protest, and a reminder all rolled into one.  

Pride allows for a moment of introspection. It's a chance to reflect on the journey of self-discovery, the battles fought within, and the moments of personal and social acceptance. I feel pride when someone comes out to me, knowing that I can offer a safe space and a voice of support if needed. It's the quiet satisfaction of holding my head high, knowing I no longer need to hide a fundamental part of myself. 

When I was asked to write this piece, I started recalling memories of my childhood and adolescence, when I learned far too early the reality of terrorism. My hometown was neither small nor large; its population was about 45,000, and it’s nearly the same today. Homophobia was prevalent, and the anti-gay bullying I experienced throughout my childhood and adolescence was miserable.  

When I was 19, I worked the midnight shift at a local movie theatre that closed at 2 a.m. Early one morning, I left work and met a young man in the parking lot I was dating. As always, there were no cars or people anywhere. On weeknights, almost no one was on the roads after 9 p.m. Like many teenagers, we got into the car and began making out. Out of nowhere, a police car barreled into the space next to us, shining a bright light in our faces, and, through a bullhorn, the officer screamed, “What are you doing?” I explained that I had gotten off work and that my friend had gone to the midnight movie. I told him we were discussing the film. He shouted, “That’s not what I’m seeing; you don’t belong here, get out!” Before we could speak, he shouted it again and waited for my boyfriend to get into his car, and then we both drove away. As he screamed, I wondered why this cop appeared to be seething with rage as I watched his hands shake. I pondered why he believed we didn’t belong when I had explained that I worked there. Of course, I knew his homophobia and hate were the answers. 

Approximately three weeks later, I got off work on Thursday at 2 a.m., just like I’d done before. The parking lot, highway, and side streets were empty, or so I thought. As I started my car, the headlights and engine of a black pickup truck also started in the opposite corner of the lot, and I could see the silhouettes of three men in the vehicle. I knew I was in trouble. At that moment, the cop from three weeks before entered my mind, and to this day, I believe it was he who organized the terror because he was the only other person besides family and friends who knew where I’d be at that time of the night on that specific day.  

I raced four miles home, blowing every stop light and stop sign on the trek there as they chased me with their bright lights in my rearview mirror, honking their horn most of the way, and all I could think about was what my dad would say if he found out. Thankfully, my car sat considerably lower to the ground than the pickup truck, so I outran them. I hid my car behind my parents’ home and watched them pass by our house. This event repeated itself twice over the next few months, and in that time, I began to think about getting out of dodge, which happened six months later. Three times, I was chased with the fear I might die each time. I never told my family until my late thirties. The shame and embarrassment haunted me until, after years of therapy, I decided I would come out (yet again) and tell my family and others about those dark nights. 

Unfortunately, my story isn’t uncommon. Many LGBTQ+ folks experience similar circumstances during their lives. Hate, bigotry, and condemnation are too familiar throughout all communities but are particularly damaging when found in our justice and law enforcement systems. There are recommendations for systems to improve support and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, with the most important practice being to listen to their stories, like mine. 

Thankfully, I wrote this as a factual account without feeling triggered or traumatized. The work I’ve done to overcome trauma allowed me the freedom to share my story with all of you.  

This June, I am happy to have had this opportunity for self-reflection and to speak publicly about my experiences, hoping that someone will read this and know that it gets better. You can be safe. You can be respected for the person you are, and you deserve to be seen as fully human like everyone else. Know that your existence should never be threatened and that violence, hate, and bullying are the actions of ignorant people who choose ignorance over love, safety, and respect. Our individual safety yields community safety, and Pride Month is one time of year when we can come together and show the world that we are loud, proud, and strong! 

TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Gender Based Violence #News

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