Preston Konrad LGBTQ Pride Personal Essay

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Preston Konrad is a celebrity stylist and lifestyle expert.

My apartment is currently a mess. Boxes upon boxes, coffee table books strewn around the living room, shoes lined up as far as the eye can see, and pieces of art stacked in the kitchen. Moving apartments in Manhattan is always an exciting yet stressful time. As overwhelming as the process may be, the thought of breathing new life into my belongings and diving into my Pinterest boards for fresh inspiration is beyond exciting to me.

While carefully wrapping my artwork in the kitchen this afternoon (yes, kitchen — I’m not much of a chef) a certain piece slipped out of my hand, almost crashing to the floor. I quickly caught it, turned it over, and smiled. Inside the frame? A now yellowing piece of newspaper that read “NEW YORK ALLOWS SAME SEX MARRIAGE, BECOMING LARGEST STATE TO PASS LAW.” I realized hadn’t taken a good look at this piece in a while and stopped to reread the subtitle — “Cuomo Signs Bill, Recharging Gay-Rights Movement” — and was instantly overwhelmed with a sense of deep pride.

The night of June 24 of 2011 was a steamy Friday in Manhattan. The streets were buzzing with a nervous and excited energy as many of my friends, my partner, and I awaited the marriage equality vote to come in. Texts were dinging, calls were flying, and plans were being made. . . . “Let’s all meet at Stonewall! It’s going to happen, I feel it!” said a friend of mine over text message. My partner and I jumped on the 1 train in Times Square headed for Christopher Street to meet up with our boys.

Back in 2011, our relationship was still young, and I was nearing the end of my 20s. Hopes for apartments together, getting a dog, supporting each other’s career moves, Summer vacations, and, ultimately, marriage were always on the brain. The thought that we could actually soon be able to be married in the state where we met and went on our first date was beyond thrilling.

We climbed up the Subway steps at Christopher Street and emerged to a sea of excitement. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were gathered in front of the historic Stonewall Inn to hopefully celebrate the end of a long battle for marriage equality. As we navigated the crowds of men and women in front of the bar to find our friends, I felt nothing but proud. Proud that I was part of a vibrant community that has been relentless in its fight for equality. Proud to be with a partner that was as equally excited about our future together and that it could soon be legal to exchange vows. I was proud to be surrounded by a group of friends that always support each other and make me laugh when I’m down. I was especially proud to be able to call myself a New Yorker that evening.

As I finally spotted my friends across the street, the cheers began. The news trucks ascended on the corner and the crowds began to swell. . . . We had won! Same-sex marriage was now the law of the land in New York state. As we embraced each other and began to get teary-eyed, I realized what gay pride was all about. It was about that very moment, being with the people I cared about the most, while being proud to be exactly who I was (blue espadrille sandals and all).

The official gay-pride parade in New York City came around in a matter of days, the timing perfectly serendipitous. And while for many New Yorkers, gay pride in Manhattan is filled with crowded house parties, short shorts, and dancing the night away (myself included for many years), this year was different. I decided that this year it was about celebrating being proud in the best way I could imagine, holding hands with my man while waving a rainbow flag as the parade marches by.