June 8, 2018 at 2:02 pm PDT | by Susan Hornik
What does LA Pride’s #JustBe theme mean to you?

The freedom to be yourself is everything in this life, which is why this year’s Pride is calling on you to #JustBe. We sometimes forget, in our anxiety about the fight for LGBT rights that at the heart of what we are fighting for is the uniqueness of our own self. So, we rounded up a few Los Angeles Blade readers on the streets of WeHo, Hollywood and LA and asked what #JustBe means to them. Hundreds of thousands of stories — millions, in fact — in the big city, and they’ll all come together this Pride to #JustBe. Happy Pride!

Dominique Jackson (Photo courtesy of Jackson)

Dominique Jackson, stars as “Elektra Abundance” in “POSE,” which airs on the FX Network Sundays at 9 p.m. and is the author of “The Transsexual from Tobago.”

It means visibility! That me and my brothers and sisters’ lives are celebrated. It gives me and others like me, the courage to live in our truths.

“Just be”relates to me and in so many ways, speaks to my existence, to my ability to be myself. It’s time that people understood that is is so important to be themselves. We live in a society where people are constantly trying to be someone else; trying to live a life, which is a facade, to impress others or to make others think that they’re more than they are. We also have to understand that it’s OK to be ourselves.

“Just be” means you can give yourself that freedom and liberty to find the best in you and understand your strengths and your faults and not be ashamed of all you are. We’re all not perfect, but we still have the right to be ourselves. “Just be’ is really really important and amazing to me.

               Mindy Jones (Photo courtesy of Jones)

Moby’s singer, Mindy Jones (catch her as she sings at GIRL BAR / ALTER GIRL at the Chapel (next to the Abbey) during Pride.

Although it’s important to feel proud of who you are all year round, PRIDE month and festivities are an important part of bringing people together, raising awareness and celebrating community. As a person who has been fortunate enough to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin, for the most part, this is a time to remember and appreciate that it isn’t and hasn’t always been that way for everyone in the queer community. This is a time for celebration, but also gratitude for those who came before.

Jasper Cole (Photo courtesy of Cole)

Jasper Cole, featured actor on “Westworld”

Pride for me today at 54 is all about being a survivor and being grateful for the amazing strides our community has made in my lifetime. A journey that has taken me from living in constant fear in my 20s and early 30s to a powerful place of strength and peace in my 50s, married for four years to a man I’ve been with for 21 years.

I am grateful for a successful acting career, and above all, to be still be alive thanks to all those who went before me and who sacrificed so much for all that is today. I’m PROUD to live my TRUTH and hope to inspire others to do the same.

“Just be” relates to my life because I’m able to live a life no longer feeling like a second-class citizen. I live a life being proud of who I am regardless of what the current government may be trying to do. My pride and past struggles enable me to know that whatever challenges present themselves today, I can overcome those as well. Being out and open and proud influences every part of my life, marriage, work, family and spirituality.

Dominic Friesen (Photo courtesy of Friesen)

Dominic Friesen, publicist

Although Pride has many different meanings for the LGBTQ community, this month is a time for us to celebrate each other, as well as our shared histories and futures. While we collectively weather our current political storm, it is critical that we are visible, our voices are heard, and our stories are told.

For me, growing up was a definitely a challenge with dark times due to being targeted by hate crimes and bullying, so the support, love and respect shared throughout the LGBTQ community — especially during Pride — is truly life-changing.

David Lasky (Photo courtesy of Lasky)

David Jay Lasky, producer

Pride is truly extraordinary. I look forward to it each and every year. I came out when I was 20, in 2001; the world is more accepting now thankfully. However, it’s still good to celebrate progress. I like to celebrate the sense of camaraderie and that everyone can express themselves to the utmost and fullest extent. They can be open and honest and passionate.

Greg Sage (Photo courtesy of Sage)

Greg Sage, General Manager and Operating Partner for Ocean Prime Beverly Hills

Pride is being comfortable with who I am, who I have been and who I will be continue to become. I am inspired daily by the diverse cultures here in Los Angeles and bringing Ocean Prime’s company culture of yes is the answer to all. Being able to make our associates and guests feel special and them knowing that it is truly coming from my heart, drives me to continue to touch people’s lives with exceptional service, kindness and generosity, creating memorable experiences for each and every guest who dines at Ocean Prime.

Cat Cora (Photo courtesy of Cora)

Cat Cora, Celebrity Chef and Food Channel star

For me, Pride is about being unconditionally comfortable with who you are, not just for the gay community, but for anyone who has been told they don’t belong. I have faced adversity as both a gay woman and a female chef, and I am PROUD to say I never let the naysayers hold me back from succeeding in work and love.

Matt Aversa (Photo by John Nacion Imaging)

Matt Aversa, Publicist

Pride means to me that I can be who I want to be, in my own skin, on my own terms. It’s a hard thing for a lot of people to come to the point of being proud and for me, I found pride in not being ashamed or uncomfortable being me. It’s not just a month. It’s something in your heart telling you to be yourself and express yourself however you choose to do so.

Rick Proctor (Photo courtesy of Proctor)

Rick Proctor, Designer at Island Cannabis

Pride means most importantly to be yourself. There are so many outside influences on the way we dress, how we speak, what we buy, and (unfortunately) who we love — Pride is being able to wade through those outside barriers and create your own influence. Be true to who you are and show the world what you want to represent and what you stand for. Whether it’s LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, cannabis freedom, there’s a lot of things I stand for and I try to show my pride in every day.

Coming from the rural South, there were influences that kept me from being me my entire life. Whether it was my racist father who didn’t want me and my brother playing with black kids, or the school kids who teased me for being gay long before I knew what gay was — there were a lot of things that told me not to end up in the relationship I’m in, but after four years with my partner I know they were wrong and this is what was meant to be.

I also know that me being able to show my pride is a layer of privilege. I need to acknowledge that there are a lot of kids in the rural South in 2018 and all over the world that are still not able to to be who they were meant to be and we need to support them in every community — here and around the globe.

Andy Rollyson (Photo courtesy fo Rollyson)

Andy Rollyson, Music Agent

Pride to me is a time to come out and be the superlative of your gayness, when you do the opposite of hide in a closet. In more recent years, I’ve been going as an exercise and celebration of my rights because in other parts of the world many people are still persecuted for their sexuality. “Just be” is something that makes the community and world at large a better place.

Nikki Levy (Photo courtesy of Levy)

Nikki Levy, Writer/Performer, “Don’t Tell My Mother!”

Pride means telling people — old people, young people, West Hollywood people, Midwestern people — that I am engaged to my GIRLFRIEND. She popped the question in Las Vegas last weekend, and I wanted to show that ring around. Vegas is a melting pot of folks from all over the world and all different backgrounds and political/religious views, but I was so excited, I wanted to tell them all. The middle aged couple next to us at dinner, the old lady at the slot machine, waiters, hostesses, the cab driver. And each time I did, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach, like “is this person safe to tell?” And shockingly, everyone was excited for us.

I didn’t think I would ever meet someone and have a “good” relationship, one with mutual love and respect. My therapist (so LA, I know) told me to go on 100 dates. “If you go on 100 dates, Nikki, you will meet someone. I promise!” She was my 34th. Not bad odds. Pride, this year, means settling down with the woman of my dreams. I turned 40 this year and I finally feel like an adult.

Dave Young (Photo courtesy of Young)

Dave Young, Caterer and Event Planner

Pride means being happy and proud how far we have come in this world being gay. It’s so amazing especially living in LA, how people are so accepting. Most of my friends are straight and I love them so much for accepting me as a gay man. Of course, there are terrible people out there in the world and gay haters, but I take pride knowing that there are also good people out there. I make sure I surround myself with those people in my life.

Jorge Perez (Photo courtesy of Perez)

Jorge Perez, Agent for Celebrity Artists

To me Pride means the ability to be “ME.” Our society and culture has come a long way to be where we are today. I think it’s important to celebrate where we are in the conversation of LGBT, but it’s also to keep an eye on changes that are still yet to come. We have come a long way but we are definitely not done.

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