It’s impossible to describe culture without starting with people. My culture was not always defined by Jersey City. I have only lived in the area for (almost) six years. I came searching for a sense of community, for a place that allowed me to be open about my sexuality and to not be afraid a wrong word would get me into a fight. Like many others, I came here for New York City, have stayed here because of JC.
I never connected with the cultural identity of rural America. I liked to throw odd colors together in clothing to stand out. I liked to watch musicals and sing along loudly to various pop divas while driving down the road. I watched science fiction and fantasy shows. All these things set me apart from the so-called mainstream South Dakota society. Add in the fact i was gay, and I was a verifiable anomaly. I never fit in, so I had to search for other people who didn’t fit the puzzle. We became amazing friends, but I needed more.
Jersey City feels like it has completely changed since I moved here. When I started first working on Newark Ave, there was one gay bar in the city, the downtown community was filled with musicians, and the only real nightlife was few bars down the strip. I knew nothing of Hudson Pride. I knew nothing of the blooming gay community, and outside of the stray meet-up on some app knew no one within the gay community. I barely even knew what cultural history I had as a gay male let alone all the things before me. That has drastically changed for me personally and the community.
Hudson Pride fills my Facebook feed with incredibly news of their accomplishments from the new health deal with Carepoint to their LezFest Events. Another gay bar, the Royal, has opened and quickly became a staple of the community. We even have a gay dance club opening down on Newark Avenue. Working with Hudson Pride has led me to connect with the community and see the vivid queer identity of it in the area that I had not seen before.
As the community grows and expand, so will the cultural queer identity. And I think it’s important to speak out about that. People need to see the things in Jersey City and know they’re there. We have artists, musicians, writers, and cooks. We are every faucet of art within the city, and we can come together to make it shine brighter than before. It goes even beyond this.
Queer culture isn’t just two men or two women holding hands walking down the street. We can sometimes forget that. It’s also the bisexual husband who loves his wife, but still find men undeniably attractive. It’s the people unsure of gender when they look in the mirror. It’s the people still afraid to claim their sexuality, whether it be gay, bisexual, pansexual, or simply fluid. And all of those voices, all of that art, and all of those lives make Jersey City exactly as fantastic as it is. It’s the personal stories of people finding each other and coming together as a community.
It’s a great year for the queer community, and it’s the start of something wonderful. We have new queer themed events happening every week. Hudson Pride is even doing a month long celebration of JC Pride in August, the biggest Pride festival we’ve had to date! With the largest LGBTQ population in the state, we have a vivid identity that needs to be explored and seen. I can’t wait to share it.