Finding PRIDE at Every Turn . . . (Or, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation”)

You might have noticed (probably not, actually . . .) that I have been off of LinkedIn since July for some much-needed R&R and overdue self-care. While I fully realize that the beat definitely goes on with respect to all of the utter nonsense directed at the transgender community and the LGBTQ+ community more broadly, after some serious soul-searching and concern for my overall state of mind, I made the decision to completely disconnect. Not forever, mind you (I’m not quite ready for that!), but temporarily so that I could push the proverbial reset button on my psyche and come back stronger for what I am sure will be an epic onslaught of hate-filled and misinformed diatribe as the 2024 presidential election cycle heats up.

For the better part of two months, my wife Mari and I stumbled through Europe – mostly at sea on the cruise ships we were on – but also by air and train. We were fortunate to visit places like Norway (and cross the Arctic Circle to North Cape – the northernmost point in Europe, the British Isles, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Malta (just a few weeks before they hosted EuroPride). And we even made it to Paris for a few days, as we made our way back from the Mediterranean to Amsterdam, where our ship took us to the utterly amazing and totally breathtaking landscapes of Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. Fjords, waterfalls, glaciers, the Midnight Sun, and yes, even the Northern Lights! Without a doubt, it was, and will always be, a trip of a lifetime.

But an interesting, and I’ll admit unexpected, thing happened at virtually every stop – Pride was everywhere. Fully inclusive Pride flags and trans flags seemed to show up at every turn of our journey. While in Belfast we missed their Pride celebration by a day. But luckily, we were scheduled to be in Liverpool the next day, so a quick Google search revealed that we would be there for their Pride celebration. And it was wonderful! Standing along the parade route and cheering support for not only our trans siblings but for everyone marching in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community – and there were many – was truly a magical moment for us both.

While our Liverpool experience will always be the highlight, we encountered bold symbols of inclusion in places like Stavanger, Norway and Ísafjörður, Iceland; St. John’s, Newfoundland and Sydney, Nova Scotia. And throughout central Europe in Valetta, Malta, and in Paris too.

And it all gave me hope. Hope that perhaps the world wasn’t spiraling down into a cesspool of hate and derision. Hope that maybe, just maybe, there was enough compassion, humanity, and grace left on this earth to bend the narrative to truth and love for ALL of our fellow human beings. As I have been told by more than one person in my lifetime so far: I hope well.

As an openly LGBTQ+ American traveling overseas I will admit to feeling more than a bit embarrassed by the clown show that is our political landscape. It followed us everywhere it seemed, as a number of the Europeans we met all wanted to talk to us about that. Especially in Italy, where things have gotten very bad under their neo-fascist prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. Our guide in Livorno spoke to us practically in tears about how her gay brother had to move to the U.K. because he feared for his safety. And apparently, he was not at all alone in his need to flee.

Now that I’m home, and slowly re-engaging, I see quite clearly that the myriad voices in our movement remain strong and vibrant. Their calls for justice and decency are emphatic and unequivocal: we will win and we will not be erased. I remain hopeful that these voices will never be silenced. I forever stand in solidarity with them, and it is an honor and a privilege to be counted among them. As I reflect on my place in all of it, I count my blessings every single day for the continuing journey that is my life.