Celebrating Pride: Intercomrades share their favorite memories

Intercomrades share their experiences of being out while the world is in, and recount some of their favorite memories from Prides past.

For the second June in a row, many of us are still celebrating Pride from our own homes (and screens). That’s why our theme for Pride this year is “being out while the world is in.” And with this in mind, we took a very Irish idea and shared it with our colleagues – the concept of being out out.

What is “out out”, you may ask? Well, if you’re going to the cinema, you might say you’re going out. But if you’re going to a drag show and then meeting with friends after? Well then, you’re out out.

In this special Inside Intercom episode, we’ve interviewed a few of our LGBTI+ teammates to hear their reflections on being out while everyone is inside. You’ll hear from:

  • Matt Coplai (he/him), a Sales Development Representative, based in Chicago
  • Sam Stocker (she/they), a Customer Support Specialist, based in Chicago
  • Leanne Harte (she/her), a Customer Support Manager, based in Dublin
  • Shauna O’Brien (she/her), a Customer Support Specialist, based in Dublin
  • Jess Connor (she/her), Principal Technical Program Manager, based in Dublin

We chatted about some of their favorite memories of being out out, the challenges of isolation, and their hopes for when the world reopens again. To celebrate Pride, we wanted to share some of those conversations with you.

If you enjoy our discussion, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, on Spotify, or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.

Artwork by Christopher Gale. Christopher Gale is an illustrator, ceramicist, and designer from Bangkok, Thailand. Currently based in Oakland. Chris expresses his queer identity through his artwork while blending his obsession with pop culture references sneaking behind in each piece like Easter eggs. To see more of his work, give him a follow on Instagram.

Matt Coplai on maintaining a sense of self

Matt: I think the biggest challenge about being out while the world is in would be, almost in a sense, like maintaining a sense of self. It’s easy to wake up every day, roll over, wear pajamas, go right to your computer, and just start working. I don’t want to say that people forget about you, but it’s almost as if you’re in your own little world just doing your own thing, you’re in a strict routine, and you can’t go anywhere. You can’t see people. So, for me, it’s been keeping pieces of myself that I kept when we were out. For example, I was really into working out. That’s just an easy example. So, finding the time to put that into my day and finding ways to incorporate that as I did before was really important to me.

I would also listen to podcasts on my way to work. Having that time now, do I want to sleep during that time, or do I want to wake up and listen to a podcast and treat it as if I was commuting? Having some sort of resemblance to my normal schedule was really crucial to me in maintaining that sense of self so I wouldn’t just turn into just a robot doing the same thing over and over again. That was probably the biggest challenge for me, and I’m still navigating it.

“Once a week, I quite literally would reach out to people out of the blue and just be like, ‘Hey, haven’t seen you since high school. How are things going?'”

I think the social aspect of maintaining relationships has been very difficult. I don’t want to sit here and say that I found who my true friends are or anything, but I think people who made an effort to continually reach out, who made an effort to check in, that went a long way. One of my goals was to try and reach out to somebody I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. Once every three, four days, once a week, something like that, I quite literally would reach out to people out of the blue and just be like, “Hey, haven’t seen you since high school. How are things going?” and it was kind of fun to catch up with people. Having people check in on you and returning the favor is so important to maintaining these relationships.

What was really great about it, and I noticed right off the bat because my question was, “Was that awkward? Was that weird? Am I a weird person for doing this?” and the first person who I spoke with was like, “No, you made my day. That was the most fun, coolest surprise I’ve ever gotten.” They were like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t… how are you?” and we ended up talking. I allotted maybe 20 minutes to just kind of catch up or so. We talked for an hour, and it was a blast. So, I recommend everybody to do that.

“I don’t have to be physically present all the time. It’s as simple as a phone call. It really is”

I definitely think one thing I learned or want to keep doing is that. Find people I haven’t spoken to, high school friends, college friends, and just catch up. I definitely learned that my community and my group of friends, and my chosen family, we don’t necessarily need to be in a physical place to show support and love. We don’t need the physical presence. It was very interesting to find ways to show that we’re there for each other while just hopping on a call, or hopping on a video chat. That was definitely something that I learned. I don’t have to be physically present all the time, and that’s okay. I can take steps to make other people happy. It’s as simple as a phone call. It really is.

Sam Stocker on exploring their gender identity

Sam: I have learned quite a lot about myself and my community being out while in. I would have to say that for myself, actually, I’ve had a lot of time to explore my gender expression. It’s something that I’ve struggled with for a long time. And that little bout of loneliness, of being able to experiment at home, has really helped me come out and realize I’m very comfortable with they/them pronouns, they and she, or expressing myself as someone who is genderqueer instead of somewhere on the binary.

As far as our community, our community is resilient. I have definitely learned resiliency is number one here. When we couldn’t be out, everyone came in and started these platforms online, help centers, and chat rooms, and you name it. It’s out there for us while we can’t be outside.

“Being able to have that quiet time to sit, reflect, and test these new feelings really, really helped me. It helped me figure out I’m okay to be who I am”

Digging deeper into my gender was really something that I had wanted to explore for a long time. And being in during this period of quarantine helped me do that because I was able to actually research more. So, I was using the internet, watching people do demos on things like binding your chest or dressing for your body shape. Unfortunately, I’m short and have a very curvish figure, so it’s hard to wear more masculine clothing when my body’s like, “Hm, no.” But I’m definitely experimenting with that. Trying new clothes, buying from places like Old Navy. They’re actually getting really better about having gender-neutral clothes, which is nice.

I was experimenting, doing research, and finding people online who had the same feelings that I did, explaining the same things that were going through my head that I’d never really told anybody. Being able to have that quiet time to sit, reflect, and test these new feelings really, really helped me. It helped me figure out I’m okay to be who I am. And I am comfortable saying I’m genderqueer, and I’m more masculine than I am feminine. And some days that changes, and some days it doesn’t, and that’s okay.

“I finally found who I was, and I was ready to show the world and my family and friends that I found that little niche where I belong”

Knowing that I had that time to do all that research about this really made me feel like I had a plan, I had everything written out, I had the keywords and the code words, and I guess you can say the proof that I knew what I was talking about. I finally found who I was, and I was ready to show the world and my family and friends that I found that little niche where I belong.

Doing that research helped me prepare for not only what I wanted to say, but how people would respond. A lot of people share their experiences of coming out, whether it be regarding their sexuality or their gender expression, and how people react to that, how they take it, and how they build from it. I have very accepting parents, or people in my life, in general, so I wasn’t scared that I would be rejected. I knew that it was going to be okay. But I still have that backup of, “Here’s everything I’ve learned, and here’s everything that makes me feel good.” And they ran with it.

Leanne Harte on the day Ireland said yes

Leanne: My favorite memory of being part of my community was the marriage equality referendum in 2015 in Dublin Castle. I think a lot of people who were there will probably use this as a good example of a wonderful moment of being out. It was just so special. It felt like everybody in Dublin that day was queer. It felt like everybody was supportive. It felt like Ireland was embracing us. And it was just a really special thing. We weren’t actually supposed to go to Dublin Castle that day. My wife and I actually canvased in the run-up to the referendum, and on the morning, we got tickets to go to the RDS, to the count. So we were up really early, it was really stressful and very nerve-wracking. So we went along to that, and 20 minutes in, we found out that it was a pretty emphatic yes. So that was truly wonderful.

“It was just everybody, all happy, colorful flags, singing ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin at the top of our lungs”

And then we went to brunch and had a little celebratory drink. We went home then and decided to just chill for the afternoon. We turned on the telly, and I saw what was happening at Dublin Castle. And we were like, “Oh my God, we need to get in. We need to go.” So we jumped in the taxi. I think we were probably the last two people who were let in, which was wild. So lucky. And when we got in, it was just the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been part of. I still think about it and get chills. It was just everybody, all happy, colorful flags, singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin at the top of our lungs. There was a big, massive map of Ireland on the screen, and every time a new county would go green, it was just joyous.

But the best part and the thing that always stands out to me the most about that day was as we were walking into Dublin Castle, there was this child hanging out of the railings with a rainbow flag wrapped around them, and they couldn’t have been more than seven. I knew I was gay when I was seven. That was when I first realized it. And I felt nothing but shame and fear and anxiety when I felt like I could never be myself. But when I saw that child, I just felt like, “Wow, it’s going to be different for them now.” The fact that Ireland has said yes, the fact that Ireland has embraced us so empathically, this will always be something that parents think about for their kids now. It was just an incredible moment that I never forget. So, it was definitely my favorite day. It was very special. The taxi drivers were beeping the horns, and I just felt like everybody was gay and everyone loved us all. It was fantastic.

Shauna O’Brien on spontaneous connections

Shauna: One of the most joyous or celebratory memories from a night out out with my friends, they often usually are filled with nights of last-minute plans, getting a text like, “Hey, I’m finished with work. Do you want to meet up for a pint in town?” Just a quick casual thing. We get a pint, that pint turns into three pints, and then we end up in the George, dancing away, often filled with drunken “I love you. You’re my best friend” corny sorts of chats. And then we skip off to Charlie’s or McDonald’s to get some food afterward and I just kind of reminisce that I have this awesome group of people in my life. What’s the word I’m looking for? Appreciation for people you have in your life.

“The spontaneity and randomness of some things that happen on these nights out, I miss that”

You’re all drunk and telling each other that you love each other, or you’re giving your friend a pep talk if they’re crying in the bathroom. I’ve often had random girls who are crying over fellas in the bathroom, and I’m like, “Why do you care what he thinks? You are a queen. You deserve better. You do you. When you get out there, ignore him, go to the dance floor with your girls, dance your butts off, get yourself a drink. You’re cool. You’re great. You’re going to do amazing in life.” All this — giving random strangers pep talks in the bathroom — turns into these random memories that will probably stay in my head for the rest of my life, these memories I’m going to tell my kids about, and they’ll be like, “What the hell are you talking about?”

It’s not just in Ireland. It’s everywhere I’ve been. I’ve been in Liverpool for out out weekends, meeting random strangers in the bathroom, and I’m like, “Why you’s crying? Wipe your tears. You’re cool. You’re great. Get back out there, hit the dance floor, have fun.” But definitely the spontaneity and randomness of some things that happen on these nights out, I miss that. I can’t wait to have that again. But that’s the kind of memories I can’t wait to reenact or relive, hopeful in the not-so-distant future.

Jess Connor on midsummer night dreams

Jess: Here’s my favorite out out memory: It’s the summer of June 2019, the summer solstice, and I am at [the Irish music festival] Body and Soul. I’m there with two of my very best friends. I bumped into a friend and she said, “Oh, the queers will be in the forest at midnight.” And I was like, “Cool, it’s nice to see you. Bye.” I didn’t think about it again, and we went on our merry way. I joked earlier that I got called a glitter queer – I had glitter that started on my eyes, worked across the side of my head and up into my undercut, and I had a ballgown on. I’m in a field, I’m dressed like some kind of pixie/princess, and I’m having the time of my life. I’m with my two best friends, and it’s the hype of the summer. It’s incredible.

We go to a couple of gigs and we get some food, and we’re just like living our best life, having a great time. The day transpires and we happen to be walking through the forest. I see that friend again, and she says, “The queers are over here,” and I’m like, okay, so I said to one of my friends, “Do you want to go over?”

“I’m in a forest, in a ballgown, surrounded by a bunch of queer people chanting to this incredible band – it was otherworldly”

We go into this clearing, and it’s this big, beautiful stage made out of wood, literally made out of trees. Two sides of the stage were trees, and there were branches over the top. There are these four women on stage who are kind of wearing suits, and I’m like, “Cool, what’s this? I’m ready.” We’re between events or whatever, and slowly but surely, the audience starts to fill with other clearly queer-identified people, and it’s approaching midnight. It’s called Midnight in the Forest, which I didn’t realize was the thing because I was just wandering around a festival in my ballgown with my glitter.

The band starts playing and it’s the height of summer. I keep mentioning it’s the solstice – it’s like midnight, but it’s still pretty bright. The band is just incredible. It’s open-air and it’s warm. You know that moment when you can feel the music on your chest and in your body? I’d never heard this music before, and usually, when I see a live gig, my favorite thing is to hear songs I know. But every single chord, every single lyric, I am hooked; my friends are hooked.

“It was just one of those moments in your life where everything comes together. You have the right energy, you’re in the right place at the right time”

We’re surrounded in the middle of a forest, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the year. And that is completely unexpected. The Pillow Queens have a song called “I Won’t Worry About the Gay Girls,” and the entire audience was singing “I won’t worry about the gay girls.” I can’t sing so I’m not going to do it. And I was just like, “What is happening? I’m in a forest, in a ballgown, surrounded by a bunch of queer people chanting to this incredible band.”

It was otherworldly. It was completely transformative. It didn’t feel like an experience that I would have ever in Ireland, but it was truly joyful and celebratory and wonderfully silly and complete happenstance of unplanned, and it felt so meant to be. I did not miss another Pillow Queens gig for the rest of the year until, basically, we went into lockdown. I effectively went to every single one of their gigs, in Dublin anyway, or even as far as Trim. I was there with my best friend who’s a lesbian. I was doing the glitter queer thing where I got completely dressed up.

It was just one of those moments in your life where everything comes together. You have the right energy, you’re in the right place at the right time. The weather was good. The music was good. The people were good. It was a little bit of magic, and it changed me. I started going to festivals after that. I went to Electric Picnic. I signed up to go to Fantasy Festival. That was one of just the most joyous, incredible celebratory memories. How lucky am I?

We hope you enjoyed these stories as much as we enjoyed hearing and producing them. Happy Pride from all of us at Intercom.