What Pride Means to Me
Held each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, Pride Month is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and remind everyone to engage in the fight for equality. And just as every person is unique, so are the many ways Pride is celebrated.
Tell us about yourself and your practice!
MW: My name is Michael Witkes (he/him) and I’m a yoga instructor, actor, writer, and drag queen. My dad introduced me to yoga in high school and I have been practicing ever since. I teach vinyasa classes that are generally athletic and hopefully leave you feeling refreshed.
MG: I’m Michael Galyon (he/him), a mindfulness-based coach and meditation guide who helps clients find a calmer, kinder, and more connected space within their life or business. My practice pulls from a variety of modalities, including the core energy coaching methodology, mindfulness, guided meditation, body connection exercises, breathwork, and more. At its core, the goal of my practice is simply to hold space for my clients as they come home to themselves and help them tap into a sense of self-empathy, kindness, and care so that they can show up and lead in the world from a healed and authentic space.
What does Pride mean to you?
MW: As a queer person, Pride means everything to me! It’s something I celebrate year-round. But Pride Month is a great reminder to pause and appreciate all of the queer people that came before us and helped pave the way for our rights and visibility. In a time when it feels like we’re regressing, it’s important to unify and come together so we can continue to fight for and protect our rights. We’ve had a hard few years, so Pride month is an especially important time to celebrate and allow yourself to feel queer joy!
MG: To me, Pride is a moment to collectively step forward and remind the world that each of us–no matter where we are in our process of discovering and declaring our queer identity–is whole, valid, and worthy as we are
Can you tell us about a time you’ve felt a particular sense of pride in being part of the LGBTQ+ community?
MW: I’m a drag queen, so any time I’m performing on stage surrounded by queer people!
MG: During Pride 2020, when the world was still unable to gather in person, I had the opportunity to help host a virtual Pride parade for the kids and their families. The event was hosted over Zoom and watching the screen fill up with faces of kids and adults waving rainbow flags, dancing, and laughing together in their homes was a truly magical moment. As we ended the event I couldn’t help but be so proud of the way that this community can come together to celebrate and model love for a younger generation, even in the darkest of times.
What place does Pride have in your wellness practice?
MW: My queerness definitely shapes my point of view. It took me a long time to accept and love that part of myself. So it’s important for me to continue to nourish it. As a yoga teacher, I hope to help other people relieve their stress so that they can feel freer to experience their authenticity and love the parts of themselves that make them unique.
MG: The concept of loving oneself or having empathy for oneself can often seem foreign to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and while we’re told that we need to love ourselves before we’re able to love anyone else, for those of us who didn’t grow up with strong examples of self-love, that may not be possible at first. Sometimes we need to be able to model that love for ourselves from the love we can extend to others; to have a reference point to return to, to learn how it feels to extend loving kindness to another, and then begin to slowly practice giving that to ourselves. The mindfulness meditation of loving-kindness does exactly that - giving a simple blessing of love, kindness, hope, and wellness to specific people in our lives and then taking that same loving kindness and extending it back to ourselves. In doing so we recognize our ability to share loving kindness with ourselves and others and even use it as a tool for healing. This practice is a staple in my own wellness practice and something I share frequently with clients.
How are you celebrating Pride this year?
MW: I’ll be performing in drag shows throughout the month of June – come check me out! Other than that, I love to celebrate with my friends
MG: This year I am spending the month of June out on Fire Island, where every day tends to feel like Pride!
Finally, are there any resources or organizations you’d like to give a shout-out to?
MG: Identity House is an all-volunteer community that provides counseling services to support and encourage LGBTQIA+ adults who are working through issues around sexual orientation and gender identity & expression, including among other things alienation, relationships, and family.