I spend pride month in my little southern hometown, hundreds of miles away from my college campus and the city surrounding it that has nurtured me for the past year and a half. Here, there are no churches adorned with rainbow flags, no campus clubs where I can mingle with people like me. Here, my acts of self-declaration are small. To keep my hair cut short and to not shave under my arms. To drive past creeks on gravel roads, my windows rolled down and my pride playlist a wind beside me. To no longer attend church at a place that calls me a “homophile,” as much as it pains me not to sit in the same pews where I grew up, to not sit in any pews at all during these summer days.
I use a dating app this pride month, feeling as if I’m shooting flares in the dark that no one will see. But someone sees. A girl messages me, a fellow southern lesbian who works sixty hours a week in a coal mining equipment factory, who quit college after one year to take care of her sick father, and who has the most beautiful pair of green eyes I have ever seen.
We are in pain, but in our little corner of the world where rainbow flags do not live, we exist and we are proud.