Hey! I wrote this really last minute (bad idea I know) but please let me know if this is decent enough to send.
the value of culture in our lifePrompt: Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.
One of the moments I experienced a tremendous surge of culture was when I attended my first Pride Parade in Vancouver. Having grown up in a religious household, I was apprehensive about telling my parents where I was going; as I left, dressed in a bright pink tank top and a pair of blue shorts that rested just above my knee, I said I was simply going to the beach.
On the skytrain ride to downtown Vancouver, I sat across from a balding man with a short beard, which had a few grey hairs scattered throughout. He was dressed in women's clothes and was clearly headed to the parade as his beard was decorated with iridescent glitter. He wore thigh-high heels with criss-crossed laces, a leather mini skirt over a pair of ripped cheetah-print leggings, and draped over his bare shoulders was a turquoise feather boa. The delicate manner in which he positioned his body was Michelangelesque, from his elegantly crossed legs to his chin which jutted out, exuding a certain confidence. As I stepped off the train, I watched as he strutted away, his hips swaying. This marked the first of many fascinating encounters.
I would meet a Ukrainian man whose body was decorated with ink. When I asked him about the most prominent tattoo on his chest, what looked like a series of nogs, he responded that it was an X-ray of his seven-year-old daughter's jaw. Each encounter was a vastly different story, waiting to be told. Nearly everyone came from a unique background, yet they were all unified under the common desire for equality. This was my escape from the routine days at home.
When it came time for the parade, I stood at the top of a hill, watching the myriad rainbow flags and floats parade by. I was surrounded by the hoots and hollers of the proud LGBTQ community and eventually, I gave in, my body taken over by a force unbeknownst to me as I laughed and danced absentmindedly with the people around me. A familiar figure approached and began dancing with me, moving his arms and legs in an erratic, yet elegant manner. It was the man from the skytrain. After a while, when exhaustion, combined with the sweltering sun hit, we sat on the hill and struck up a conversation.
He told me about his experience coming out and how his family had initially alienated him as back then, little was known about the LGBTQ community and homosexuality was regarded as a shameful lifestyle. Fortunately, as times changed, he was able to reconnect with his family. He said he wouldn't change his experience in any way. During his time alone, he found a community that had accepted him, one that was composed of people-some eccentric, others not-who, like him, had to choose their own family, the people they surrounded themselves with who would love them unconditionally.
When night fell upon us, I commuted home, thinking about what the man had said: how scary it can be to come out to the people you've known your whole life, not knowing whether they will still regard you as the same person before you uttered the words, "I'm gay." But there will always be a community, a culture, a family away from home, that will embrace you for who you are-that day at the parade was evidence. To see the diversity of the LGBTQ community, from the drag queens to the everyday queer folk, combined in a singular afternoon brought me inspiration: in such a diverse world of artists, scholars, and thinkers, there are so many reasons for us to be divided. But when we are unified under the same goal-to find a family, a place to belong, love-we find a community, a culture of acceptance and tolerance. That's when our lives become meaningful.