My name is Michael Stettner and I am a proud member of the Gotcha Gang and LGBTQ+ community.
Over the past two years, the meaning of Pride Month has dramatically changed for me. A little more than a year ago, my fiancé (Ian) and I decided to start Charleston’s first and only same-sex joint blog, @ilovethatforyou. Over the past year, I’ve never learned more about myself and what it means to be proud. Living in the southeast as a gay man can be terrifying. Taking a stroll down King Street while holding hands? Let’s make sure everyone around looks “safe.” Stretching to place your arm around your fiancé at the movies? Probably should check to see who’s sitting in the row behind. Sneaking a kiss in any public place? Nope. That’s just a hard pass.
It wasn’t until Ian asked to take a kissing picture for our account on our four-year anniversary. At first, I said no. Nothing draws more attention than a tripod, a camera set on a 10-second self-timer, and two men kissing in a public park. The thought made my hands sweat. Of course, Ian was there to make me feel safe. And although it was the longest 10 seconds of my life, it entirely changed my perspective of being proud.
Why? I guess I’ve never truly been proud before. Proud to love, proud to connect, proud to share, proud to be vulnerable. What am I most proud of? Being proud. Being proud can seem scary, but opening up and trusting others allowed me to truly be proud. There’s nothing I’d love to say more than I Love That For You.