HONOLULU (KHON2) — Pride. The celebration has spread across the globe as people feel safe, supported and accepted enough to follow their hearts.
It defines entire communities and provides a way of indulging in the acceptance of people on their terms.
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The history of 2SLGBTQ+ peoples spread across history, cultures, politics and religions. From the Greek poet, Sappho, to modern-era political leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt post-modern leaders like Pete Buttigieg, queer people have made indelible marks on all spectrums of societal existence.
But, beginning in the 1960s, queer peoples began to stand up and say NO to the abuse, murder, humiliation and marginalization that they had been and were experiencing.
From the Compton Cafeteria Riots to the Stonewall Inn Riots, queer people have decided that enough is enough and that it is time to stand proud.
To celebrate the people who constitute Honolulu’s Pride community, KHON2.com sat down with Talia Bongolan-Schwartz from Tali’s Bagels & Schmear located in Kakaʻako.
The extraordinary bagels that Bongolan-Schwartz and her wife have created are some of the best you’ll find outside of New York City’s boroughs.
Bongolan-Schwartz has a story that resonates throughout the 2SLGBTQ+ community, coming out “later” in life.
She was in her mid-20s when she came out to friends and family, and it wasn’t until she moved to Hawaiʻi six years ago to go to graduate school at the University of Hawaiʻi. This is also when she really began to explore who she is.
“When I did first come out, that’s really how I felt,” confided Bongolan-Schwartz. “I felt like I had wasted time. So, I did feel like ‘oh my gosh, this is so late’, you know, being, like, in my early to mid 20s. You feel like you lack authenticity because you didn’t have those experiences of coming out earlier.”
It is common when you first come out to feel like you can’t or are not allowed to claim space in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. You may feel that your’re not straight, but you also are not sure who you are or what you can call yourself.
There’s also the need to feel like you fit in. Dressing and carrying yourself in certain ways so that people in your community will accept you and see you as you see yourself.
Bongolan-Schwartz went through this but found a way to validate her experiences and mature into her own personhood.
“You feel like you’re out of your league, you know,” explained Bongolan-Schwartz. “You feel like you need to change your appearance so that you can be seen the way that you want to be seen. And that’s been, like, a part of just getting more comfortable with myself and feeling comfortable. Not having to prove my identity to anybody else has been– I don’t feel like I need to play a part anymore.”
While putting a label on your sexuality or gender identity is a validating experience, it is important to remember that these labels are for personal use. Much like theoretical constructs, labels provide the language we need to understand how to express ourselves.
Sharing that label with others is you sharing a part of yourself with the community around you. If you haven’t found a label that fits you or with which you feel comfortable, then do not worry. Self-exploration is not a quick and easy thing to do.
Bongolan-Schwartz met her wife shortly after she began her degree program. Their meeting was assisted by the Bumble dating app.
“So I met my wife, technically, on Bumble,” said Bongolan-Schwartz. “But we don’t like to give it that much credit because the night that we matched, she was on her way to where I already was. And we got to meet that same night; so, the app really facilitated our meeting, right. We spent the night at Scarlet together.”
This was in August of 2019, and COVID was just around the corner.
“Basically, I was in school and doing therapy, and she was working in environmental work,” explained Bongolan-Schwartz. “And then COVID hit; and I was on a break from school and waitressing and doing case manager work. We started making bagels at home and selling them to friends and family and stuff. Then, when we started the farmers markets, we got into a commercial kitchen.”
In the haze of the pandemic, Bongolan-Schwartz and her then girlfriend created a new way of life for themselves.
“We were spending 24 hours together,” laughed Bongolan-Schwartz. “But it all worked out pretty well. I mean, a few months into the farmers markets, we were both doing it full time. I don’t know that it’s necessarily for everyone to work with your wife or husband, but we know a lot of couples in the biz.”
Out of the pandemic, Tali’s Bagels & Schmear was born. It began as a way of dealing with the trauma of a lockdown and led to the couple developing their entrepreneurial skills.
Bongolan-Schwartz and her wife got married in 2022, and she said that the community has been incredibly supportive of both their marriage and their business.
“We’re a very openly gay business,” said Bongolan-Schwartz. “You know, my wife and I, we posted our wedding photos when we took off for our wedding and everything. Most of our employees happen to be gay. I guess it’s just that people with similar backgrounds tend to find one another.”
KHON2.com asked Bongolan-Schwartz what advice she would give to someone who is coming out “later” in life. Her biggest takeaway from her own experiences was the value of patience.
“Be patient, but also be gentle with yourself,” said Bongolan-Schwartz. “Our society and the world has really come a long way. It’s easy to see other people who know themselves from such a young age and to feel like you’re abnormal, that everyone else has it figured out. But the reality is that in any type of gay community, they’re always the people who figure it out later in life.”
She went on to explain further.
“Give yourself some grace and be kind to yourself because no one’s gonna ostracize you from the community for coming out later in life, concluded Bongolan-Schwartz. “It’s always been part of our stories, and it will continue to be.”
As Pride month in Honolulu continues, there are lots of activities to experience. If you need resources, then you can check out information at this link.
Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8
It’s important to remember that no two people are the same. We all have our own experiences, and we all have our own interpretations of how we approach our community. So, be respectful and understand that we’re all simply trying to make our way through this life the best way that we can.