I'd never been to a pride event, but I've always wanted to attend to show my solidarity and support for those in my community who were struggling to come out or be themselves. So when I heard that my college town of about 121,000 people was hosting a pride festival, I knew I had to go.
As soon as I arrived, I was welcomed with music, dancing, and a host of people all wearing rainbows and glitter.
Drag queens were taking pictures with anyone and everyone who crossed their path and giving words of encouragement. A man was blowing bubbles into the sky and kids were jumping up to try to pop them. People were wearing shirts that said "free dad hugs" or "free mom hugs" and hugged anyone who looked like they needed one.
I was taken aback by the joy of the situation. In so many places expressing any sexual orientation other than straight is frowned upon. No one seemed phased by this here. Instead, they were celebrating how far they've come, not focusing on any hate still in the world.
As I was leaving, I passed a sign that said, "Hate has no place in this state" with a picture of Missouri and a rainbow heart inside of it. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and success for the LGBTQ community in that moment. Sometimes people are so set in their ways that they don't want to change, so to see that this town and on a bigger scale this state wants to change was a big moment.
This small town in Missouri could be the stepping stone to real change.
We've come so far in the past few years, but there's still a long road ahead until everyone, of every race, size, ethnicity, and sexuality, is accepted. If you ever get the privilege to experience pride, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about and you'll get to experience the moment that I did when I realized that hate truly has no place in any state or any country.
What I'm trying to say is, love your neighbor. Love the person who sits next to you in class. Love the girl struggling to come out. Love the kid whose parents won't accept them. Love anyone and everyone because we're all the same at the end of the day.