To celebrate Stonewall 50 and WorldPride in NYC, we gathered a group of remarkable people with their own Stonewall stories to tell. Read them all in our blog, and say hello when you see them at Stonewall.
Zara Barrie has played a major role in bringing queer voices to mainstream media. From starting Elite Daily’s first-ever Queer Culture vertical, hosting and writing on shows including “Love Is The Drug: Navigating Sex, Love and Mental Illness with Zara,” serving as a board member of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, a host of credits ranging from Cosmo, The View, and Huffington Post, and coining the term “mascara lesbian,” Zara has been working to encourage truthful, loud and proud queer storytelling for years.
Being loud, proud, and true to herself is a pillar of Zara’s work. She says, “I believe our sexuality is at the very core of who we are. When we suppress that, we suppress the essence of who we are.” After coming out, Zara says that she found it easier to embrace her full self once she figured out her sexual orientation: “Everything kind of fell into place. I began to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, started to make authentic friends, found my clothing style. I embraced myself in every way.
Still, that journey wasn’t easy. “I came out to my brother when I was sixteen, but it took me until I was in my early twenties to really embrace it. I embodied a lot of shame, and I felt like I wouldn’t fit into the LGBTQ+ community because there weren’t many people in the media I could identify with.” This lack of media representation and public role models is a common struggle for LGBTQ+ people as their assert their identities. Zara also met with hostile reactions in her Florida school district: “I was teased, called hurtful names, and just made unwelcome. It was a very, very dark place.”
As Zara became more comfortable, she found a new safe place to explore: gay bars. “I found my place in the LGBTQ+ community in the gay bars. I came of age and grew up in the gay bars, fell in love in the gay bars, and it was the first place that embraced who I was– not just my sexuality, but I’ve always had a personality that never quite fit in. I’m a wild contradiction.” After a lifetime of feeling like she would never fit in, Zara discovered for herself that the differences of the community were what bonded it so tightly. “I met drag queens and kings, and trans folx, and all sorts of people, and thought ‘wow, all these people are wild contradictions,’ and felt so loved, and that’s where I found my people.”
Zara gives a special shout out to small town gay bars around the world. “You don’t have a lot of places to go– not many centers, or other places– so everybody, regardless of where you landed on the rainbow, this was where you came. It was like church, a safe place where you could be who you were.” When she travels, Zara finds the same experience holds true in rural areas and countries around the world where being an LGBTQ+ person is still dangerous. “You have to have a community, especially when you’re a marginalized group of people. Otherwise, you just feel so alone. When you feel that isolated, it can be dangerous. You need the love and connection to other people.”
For people who don’t have those bars (or aren’t allowed inside yet,) Zara highlights the role of the Internet as a community center as well. “You have this family of people, no matter where you are in the world, that are rooting for you, that are there for you, that are ready to remind you that nothing is wrong with you and be on your side in life.” These communities help give people the strength to weather the struggles of living and learning as an LGBTQ+ person, and encourage them to blossom. “I remember going back to school [after the first time I was in a gay bar] and knowing that I could go there, and I had that community that none of these other people could.”
Today, Zara’s dedication to spreading the love and community of the LGBTQ+ world is a guiding principle in her work. “Whenever I feel like I have to numb my sexuality to be taken seriously, I stop myself because I think of the young people out there who are silenced and closeted who can go online and see what I can do while being out and proud. This is about empowering the next generation. Anytime I have a moment of doubt, I remind myself, ‘we’re doing it for you the youth.’”
And when the pressure mounts, Zara is ready. “People accept me. And the ones who don’t I don’t give the energy to. Plug into love, not into hate.”Back to all blog posts