Stories from Pride 2022

Pride Stories 2022

To celebrate the diversity we have right here at Dennis Group, we asked you to share your stories this Pride month. Thank you to everyone who responded! 

Connor's Story

"I can be fully myself."

My Story

Connor Kennedy

When I came out in 2009 I never thought I would be given the opportunity to be fully myself in most environments. Today I am happy to be proven wrong and live every day as authentically as I can.

How I celebrate Pride month

I am celebrating Pride by living my truth and uplifting members of my community not only in the month of June but year round!

Anonymous' Story

"I still have love to give."

My Story

The thing about my sexuality is that, well… it isn’t. I’m asexual, which means I don’t experience sexual attraction. I’m also aromantic, which means I don’t experience romantic attraction either.

There are a lot of misconceptions about asexuality and aromanticism. Being ace, for instance, doesn’t mean that I can’t notice when someone is beautiful or good-looking. I’m easily moved by beauty, and often get flustered around beautiful people just because I’m in awe. And aromantic doesn’t mean cold or emotionless. I write poetry, love giving non-sexual physical affection, and weave clumsy flower crowns that always fall apart before I can lift them to my head. In a lot of ways, I could be called “a romantic.”

But the love I give so freely to my friends stutters and stalls out when it comes to romantic or sexual relationships. 

I dated in high school. I hadn’t learned the word “asexual” yet, let alone “aroace.” I didn’t know such a thing existed. All that I knew was that my Dear Friend was asking me out, and everyone but me wanted me to accept. His parents loved me. My parents loved him. My mother all but begged me to go out with Dear Friend, worried that if I stayed single too long, I might be left with no one to take care of me and curb my spaced-out chaos roll. And Dear Friend himself, who asked my father’s permission before showing up on my doorstep, ill with nerves and looking like a kicked puppy, had already determined that I was the love of his life and that he would crushed to death if I turned him down.

So I agreed to date him. And thus I subjected myself to two years of silently writhing in discomfort when he looked at me; silently tearing at my skin with my fingernails because I hated myself for not being able to love him back; silently feeling broken, defeated, and frightened while my body performed all the laughing, smiling, flirting motions that everyone expected from me. I let him kiss me, even though I was tense with the effort of stopping myself from recoiling. Is it normal, I wondered, to be so aware of your own thoughts when you’re being kissed? Is it normal to wish it would end? I was hyperaware of my hands and of the places on his chest and ribs where I could poke or shove or hit to get him away. I never did push back, though. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to.

Finally, after two years of trying to manufacture chemistry and force romantic feelings, I let the relationship end. Dear Friend, I decided, deserved someone who cared for him the way he cared for them. As hard as I tried, I could never be that person. A breakup is supposed to be crushing, or so I’m told, but as I drove away from that conversation, I was almost giddy with relief. I felt like myself again.

Entering college, I waded through a frenzy of freshmen convinced that they would find their soulmate in their first semester, unimpressed and vaguely annoyed. Thankfully, I was in the same dorm as a handful of friends who often invited me to their room. It was in that room that I first puzzled over dating out loud to my friends. I told them that I didn’t know what it was that made people lose all common sense around the object of their affection. I didn’t know what it was that compelled people to seek relationships fraught with drama. Or to seek a relationship at all. Or, just… relationships.

My friend, laying upside-down in her bed, grinned and peered at me through her glasses. “You sound like me,” she said. “D’you think you might be ace?”

And just like that my life changed. My friend bundled a small stack of books into my arms and told me to keep them. She started sending me memes and taking pictures whenever she saw something with a white/grey/black/purple color scheme. For the first time, I had somebody who didn’t tell me that I was crazy, or defective, or too picky, or too sensitive, or not trying hard enough. For the first time, somebody looked me in the eye and told me that I’m not crazy, I’m not defective, and I’m not the only one. Knowing there’s a whole asexual community changed my entire world. 

My sexual attraction doesn’t exist. My romantic attraction doesn’t either. But I still have plenty of love to give, and a few good friends to give it to, and you know what? That’s enough for me.

How I celebrate Pride month

June Pride Month isn’t something I usually take part in. I don’t like to draw attention to my sexuality. But every October, when Asexual Awareness Week arrives quietly and without fanfare, I get on the phone with my aspec friends. We remind each other to eat cake. We remind each other that we aren’t broken for being different, and that we’re going to be ok.

V's Story

"I'm proud of the journey."

My Story

Last week I was delighted to find a mangled metal fork in the shared kitchen of my house. It was scratched and bent at odd angles like somebody had driven a bulldozer over it five or six times and then tried to coax it back into a functional shape, with only moderate success. I found it absolutely hilarious. I sent a photo of it to my friends, captioned "my sexuality in college". Then I paused, hit by the significance of what I'd just done. Casually making jokes about my sexuality and my journey? Being confident enough to do so? I couldn’t possibly have imagined myself doing any of this, just a handful of years ago.

While it is fun to look back through a comedic lens at my demi-bisexual coming out journey, doing so always comes with a bittersweet tinge. The "sweet" comes from the joy I feel at being at home with myself, and having community, and having words to describe my experiences. The “bitter” comes from the time I lived without those things, and from all the times I came unbelievably close to the truth and blew right past it (hence the comparison to the bendy disaster fork).

I often see coming out depicted as a big reveal, or as a heartfelt confession to your loved ones. For me, the act of "coming out" certainly included that, but ultimately it was really about the years and years it took me to even hold the thought "I might like women" in my mind, without pushing it away or downplaying it with a joke. It’s also about the years it took me to understand the way my attraction took others forms, and to accept myself as I was. When I look back on my past and feel proud of myself, it’s not for being out and loud today, though I am proud of that too. Instead I’m proud of myself for the journey I made internally. I went from molding myself to match the way my friends expressed their attraction (and who they expressed their attraction to), to unraveling my long-buried feelings bit by bit, to conquering the wall of fear that grew wider and taller each time I heard my friends’ parents whisper “he has a partner”; or watched my classmates outright ignore a girl they had previously been friends with for years; or listened anxiously to my parents tell me that I’d “find a wonderful man” to love someday.

My demisexuality and bisexuality are inextricably entwined. In middle school, when I didn’t react the same way my friends did about glossy magazine prints of Orlando Bloom or other male celebrities, I feared that my lack of interest meant I might be gay, and I threw myself into fabricated crushes on male classmates to convince myself I wasn’t. In high school and college, I maintained confidence in my straightness and vaulted into potential new relationships with men, trying to break through the “I feel so so” phase, to the phase where I knew I’d eventually be able to access my attraction to them. Post-college, when I finally acknowledged my desire for relationships with women, I hesitated to call myself bisexual because I didn’t immediately feel strongly attracted to women the way my gay peers did, because I had outright forgotten that I experienced that “so so” period with everyone, after ignoring it for so long. Hearing my friends talk about demisexuality provided me with the final puzzle piece I’d been missing, and it allowed me to finally see the full picture. Finally I could say I was bisexual with confidence and pursue the relationships I wanted. Finally I could stop harming myself and my relationships by trying to speed-hack the way my attraction formed. And finally, I learned how to be bravely and authentically myself in the face of opposition and broken expectations.

They say that realizing your sexual orientation is like coming home to yourself, and I agree wholeheartedly. Even though I still date men as well as women and gnc folks, the entire way I live and love is unimaginably different than before. That experience of joy and freedom is what I hope to impart to everyone around me by providing them with a safe space to be messy and question who they are in any capacity--even if their journey ends up looking like a really really messed up fork.

Happy Pride. <3

How I celebrate Pride month

I'm celebrating Pride by being a straightup (lol) bisexual icon. Also cheetah print heels.

David's Story

"Thank you for showing me how to unconditionally love."

My Story

David Peterson

We have lived in Seattle since '99 and have a very diverse group of very close friends. We have always supported the LGBT community and count many as close dear friends. I have actually performed the wedding ceremonies for more than six couples. However, we found ourselves being supported by these same dear friends when my grandson came out as transgender. Having so many LG and B friends, I was at first shocked at how difficult this was for us, especially me, but our friends and community at large taught us that what we were feeling was normal and the important thing was to be honest and support Max. Well, its been a number of years, and Maxine, her partner and I now share a great relationship, which I truly cherish. Thank you for showing me how to unconditionally love.

How I celebrate Pride month

Being real and sharing encouragement.

Lizza's Story

"I celebrate my friends every day."

My Story

Lizza Ocampo

Not a story, but I am friends with MANY people in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. They are the most passionate, creative, beautiful, etc, etc... souls and I am glad to be part of their orbit.

How I celebrate Pride month

I celebrate my friends every day and all the affirmative ways they self-identify!

Heather's Story

"There are a few times when life comes full circle."

My Story

Heather Shapiro

I'm blessed to have grown up in a family of allies. My parents have always provided a safe space for their friends to be who they are and love whoever they want. As we got older, they grew that space to include our friends.

When I was in high school, I had a friend named Jesse. Between our junior and senior year, Jesse came out as gay to my sister and I. Our mom was the first adult he told, because he knew that she was safe. His father was a little slower to accept this new reality, but Mom was there every step of the way. She took care of him when he needed it - gave him a shoulder to cry on, encouragement to be himself and showed him unconditional love.

There are few times when life comes full circle. On November 30, 2021, my mom went into sudden cardiac arrest. The first responders were able to bring her back and stabilize her that day and she was rushed to St. Francis Hospital. As luck would have it, Jesse was working as a nurse there in the ICU - where my mom was in a coma. Upon hearing that she was there, he asked if he could visit her. We not only agreed, we encouraged him to do so as often as he could as we weren't able to due to COVID. Almost every day, he would stop by and talk to her. He told us it was the least he could do.

On January 16 - after a harrowing fight - we let her go. Jesse didn't get my earlier message, and he stopped by for his visit. Within five minutes - as he and my dad held her hands - she passed away. Just as she had given him that safe space 20 years earlier, he was able to do the same for her when she needed him.

I'm forever grateful to Jesse for all he did for our family during that time. I'm also grateful that I had a mom who showed me the value of loving someone for who they are as a human being - regardless of who they love. This is great example of the impact you can have on someone's life.

How I celebrate Pride month

I celebrate by showing up. I also celebrate those who have made the brave, bold choice to live their truths. Shout it from the rooftops, baby! I'm here for all of you!

Anonymous' Story

"It felt like a key slotting into a lock."

My Story

I'm someone careening towards middle age who still hasn't been able to figure out what, if any, labels really apply to me, or even if they're actually necessary. I've seen friends and family embrace their queerness and find love in unexpected places, or who have discovered the relief of declaring themselves non-binary. I read stories and hear people talking about how they "just knew" an inherent truth about themselves, and wonder how I can just be an anxious question mark of a person.

I think that, for everyone out there sure of themselves and their identity, there are so many who question and second guess and just don't know. The struggle in that situation is to accept that not knowing is as valid as being 100% certain of who you are... or maybe just to accept that these things might be more fluid for some than they are for others.

For myself, I've had a few moments of clarity. I remember the feeling of relief I felt when I first read the term 'biromantic.' It felt like a key slotting into a lock and threw many of my past experiences with members of all genders into perspective. For now, that, and the feeling that it's okay to keep wondering and questioning, is enough for me.

How I celebrate Pride month

I find it difficult to think of Pride as something for *me*, so I celebrate my friends and family who have found the courage to be their most authentic selves. I'm celebrating by trying to boost, support, and listen to the beautiful queer people in my life. Happy Pride!

Anonymous' Story

"I can't help but want to celebrate!"

My Story

I realized I was queer several years ago, but this year will be my first time attending any Pride events! Thanks to a couple years of being semi-closeted, and then the pandemic, I'm more than ready to celebrate, even though I'm past the point of feeling I need to prove myself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This year I bought some Pride t-shirts and jewelry, and I'm hanging a string of Pride flags in my garden. It might seem a little over the top, but I think I'm allowed to have some fun now that I'm finally at home with myself. <3

How I celebrate Pride month

I'll be decked out in the usual pride regalia, and I might even attend Pride in NYC! Since I came out in my late twenties, I sometimes feel a little self-conscious about wanting to celebrate Pride. So many of my friends in the LGBT+ community came out in their teens, so it's all old hat to them and Pride events are just opportunities to meet up with old friends. Still, there's such a feeling of joy in finally knowing and seeing this part of myself, I can't help but want to celebrate. And I think everyone should get to celebrate moments like this, no matter who they are or when they've come out.