The long, narrow, wooden staircase led me to my personal hell. How did I get here? Why am I here? These are the questions I asked myself while trapped at the Ugly Mug bar in Washington DC. It was Memorial Day Weekend, Black Gay Pride, and to quote the amazing Loretta Devine in Waiting to Exhale, “ I could have been home watching Good Times.”


As I paid my twenty bucks and got my wristband, a deep regret began to set in. I looked into the crowd of mature, black men packed inside the small space like sardines in a can. All I could think of at that moment was are we still doing this? Why do we still feel the need to do this?


The one thing I was grateful for as I severed my way through melanated bodies to approach the bar, was that I ran into a friend I had not seen in over ten years. He was once a colleague who always invited me to DC’s premier gay events when I was still a closeted young newbie to the scene. At that time in my life, I was deathly afraid of living fully in my truth. He would discreetly leave information about ski trips in the drawer of my desk at work. I always loved that about him and his promise to keep my and to some degree his sexuality at work, as hidden as the beef-cake model on the flyer placed among my office supplies.





As we approach the final week of Pride Month, it’s not lost on me that I am behind the eight ball of contributing creatively to a joyous time of the year commemorated by so many. I guess I was in my feelings about how much Pride and my attachment to it has evolved.


As I think back to that three-day weekend of festivities, I’m not in judgment of brothers who love brothers gathering to clink glasses in a safe space. Personally, however, I’m at a place in my life where what once served a purpose for me in the past, no longer does. My pride has moved beyond the need to be seen in crowded scenes. A coveted way of being I once clung to.


I still love my community and how we show up for each other, but I can do without some of the pomp and circumstance


I much preferred the first drag brunch I attended earlier in the day with a killer soul food spread complete with a mac n cheese that almost put my momma’s to shame (almost). I was more into seeing my travel buddies who ventured in for the weekend and the conversations we had over Grey Goose and cranberry juice at the hotel lobby bar.


It is pride in the amount of time I have invested in the friendships via a shared brotherhood of the same-gender-loving experience that I connect the most with these days. The stories we’ve told, the memories we’ve shared, and seeing each other at our highest, and sometimes at our lowest is what resonates with me so deeply.


I couldn’t have been at the bar for more than an hour. Despite a few failed attempts, I was unable to penetrate the fortress of well-preserved men surrounding the bar to at least get a good buzz to calm my introverted nerves. It wasn’t long after that I began to fantasize about laying in the bed of my hotel room while finding a documentary on Netflix to get lost in. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the cherry-glazed salmon I had at dinner wasn’t sitting quite well with me. The combination of bubble guts and the various scents of cologne began to take its toll. It was time for my exit from the watering hole reminiscent of the beloved Bachelor’s Mill which closed its doors to the black gay community several years ago.




On the Uber ride back to the hotel, I appreciated the driver’s silence as I prayed to the ancestors to let me make it to the bathroom in time. I also thought about how much I’ve changed since my fun-filled club days in my early twenties. I still love my community and how we show up for each other, but I can do without some of the pomp and circumstance that quite frankly, I was never comfortable with when I was younger.


As I made it back to my room safe and sound, I took a shot of Pepto Bismol, a swig of ginger ale, and let the age-old black folks feel better remedy work its magic. I laid down and started my descent into streaming heaven or sleep. Whichever came first. I thought about how grateful I was to still be here to experience the joy of my fellow brethren during the beginning of Pride month. As the fatigue began to set in, the comfort of the bed enveloped me. I thought to myself that if asked to do it all again next year, club sardine can and all, the answer would undoubtedly be – yes!