Pride Month 2021 - Guest Post


June 28, 2021 | by Ashley Eisenmenger

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today, Daniella Mazzio (she/her/hers), is a Chicago-based writer, administrator, performer, and advocate. She identifies as queer, and as a person with a disability. She has many other intersecting identities as well.

This piece is a reflection about pride, community, and identity in Daniella’s own words. When not exploring the relationship between audience and performer or cracking jokes to her partner and two cats, Daniella spends her time gardening, crafting, watching movies, and taking much-needed naps. She is a 2021 Disability Lead Fellow.

Do You Own What You Give? A Reflection on the Complexities and Importance of Embracing Identity

I recently participated in a workshop centered on community building. I was among femme and nonbinary folks in a space where community care was front and center. Through thoughtfulness, softness, and a collective urge to challenge power, we found refuge in each other as we talked openly and earnestly. As a person plagued with social anxiety, I haven’t necessarily missed in-person interactions outside of the people in my closest circle during the pandemic, but this beautiful day in the park left me feeling full; I had no idea I was hungry.

One of the questions that came up as we sought a path towards equity: Do you own what you give?

This question has stuck with me in the days since, lingering like an unforgettable movie scene. It is key to understanding the ways in which we function within capitalism, where accumulated wealth can often be traced back to human rights violations with an added dash of Reaganomics. We can wrap our heads around the idea that wealth and assets may never truly be ours…but what about ourselves? How much ownership are we given in our own lives, and how much of ourselves must we give for survival?

I am a queer woman, and thus, come June every year, I have Pride for my identity. I celebrate that Pride by spending my money and my capital on new possessions that declare my Pride.

When mental illness awareness comes up  in its hashtag cycle, I am once again encouraged to show my Pride. I bare my soul and preach positivity to declare Pride for something that has, in many ways, destroyed me.

My story doesn’t belong to me. In certain environments, I must give and show my Pride to increase diversity. In others, I must bury it. My Pride is a commodity and a burden; an object; an article; a label. Seldom is it an act, a verb.

But Pride is not something I inherently own. It is manufactured.

It, too, is capital. 

To be truthful, I do not always feel Pride for my unshakable possessions, but with so many invisible identities, my ownership is complex. I am queer, and I am in a relationship with a cis man. I am mentally ill and neurodivergent, and my body is abled. I am Mexican, and I am white too. Every day I am confronted with others telling me what is and isn’t mine, and every day I am presented with the privileged option to give some parts of myself more than others.

When I can build community as I did with this recent workshop, I am reminded of folks who cannot hide what they own. For them, Pride is more than a commodity – it is a radical act. It transcends the idea of Pride as a noun and becomes a collective verb. We Pride because we must.

I have days where I feel ashamed of my queerness or where I can feel my mental illness working against me. I must remember during those times that – while my shame buries what I own, and my manufactured Pride sells what I own – community Pride shares what I own. We Pride collectively, and we create a world where we don’t have to give what we own. Our possessions are unshakable, yes, but they are un-diminishable, too.

This year, I won’t hide what I own in fear of losing it. I won’t allow that privilege to isolate me from those who share without taking. I Pride because I must. It’s not something to manufacture nor own, something to give nor take. It is what I must do – what we must do – to keep ourselves, and most importantly each other, full.