Pride isn't just a month to me, it's a purposeful life. It's a never-ending part of my life. It's meek but bold, quiet but loud. Pride is steady and sure and oh so proud.
I grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, as the son of Lynn and Isiah Thomas. Growing up I always wanted to perform. If it wasn't music it was theatre, and if it wasn't theatre it was dance. I loved to dress up. I had all kinds of costumes including some clothes that my parents had added to my collection and a lot of Halloween costumes. I would pretend to be a salesman one day or a genie the next. I would be a Disney character like Jafar or even put on heels and pretend to be Naomi Campbell — her presence is mesmerising. I never liked makeup but in my head I was always "glamorous."
The one thing that never entered my imagination was that I was "gay." As a child I was just me and label-free. I didn't know what gay was just as much as I didn't know what black, ADHD or dyslexic was. All these labels never entered my mind as a child because it didn't matter to my authenticity.
That's why Pride isn't just a month to me and why it can be so many things — because Pride is us. Pride is about being 100 percent who you are. I love to think back on my childhood and remember what it was like to not care about judgment or definition. To not have a label. We live in a society that forces us to label everything. We even give ourselves labels, but pride isn't about the labels, it's so much more than that.
We may be black or white. We may identify ourselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or we may even be asking ourselves which, if any, of these things describes what we feel inside. We may be muscular, or twinkish, or masculine, or femme, but all of these things just are parts of who we are.
The most prideful thing is how we choose to define ourselves. Do we listen and learn? Are we caring? Do we respect our brothers and sisters? Do we love ourselves? Are we quick to anger or hate? Do we take the time to understand other cultures? Do we try to define others by the things beyond their control? Do we love by the colour of their skin or the content of their character?
Gay Pride is not just being proud that we are gay, but being proud that we will not let others define us by our sexuality. It is showing society that we are here. We come in all different colours, genders, shapes and sizes. We are everywhere.
I'm a gay man, but to me that's not an issue of pride. Pride comes from taking my experiences as a gay man and learning to be more compassionate, to love more freely, to seek to understand and be understood. Pride comes, or not, by the way I define myself through the choices I make. Everything else is just description.