Saturday marks the first day of Pride month and with it comes a range of emotions. Many are excited about being able to congregate in their hometown, openly, along the street and celebrate what it means to be LGBTQ and the advances we have made. Many still mark this as a time of shame and refuse to come out for fear of persecution that could follow. And, still, many more refuse to take part in any Pride event because they feel that it denigrates the cause or fight. That half naked party boys on a float gyrating to the newest dance beats is offensive to what Pride should be about. Whatever the case may be, it is a time of reflection and to look ahead to the future of what remains to be done in advancement of our rights.
I have mentioned in previous articles why Pride started, but as a short recap we will say that it was due to Stonewall and the Christopher Street Liberation Day. If it had not been for the LGBTQ people that were fed up with how they were being treated, daily, by those in power, Stonewall would have never happened. It was those souls that said they had had enough and would no longer take the indecency they were forced to endure. The one event lead to the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which was held as an anniversary to the Stonewall Riots. The anniversary march almost didn’t happen as the organizers feared police reprisal and violence from the general public. Despite these concerns, the march went on. The uptown route started at Sixth street in Greenwich Village and went to Central Park. Every single gay and lesbian group in New York took part in the event and consisted of the newer generation and the seasoned demonstration veterans. The march drew attention of visitors and the national media, alike. More than 2000 people joined this march and forced the nation to start a public discussion of homosexuality, as they watched LGBTQ people simply be themselves and march for their rights. This march had a sister march in Los Angeles and went on from there to create sister marches in major cities around the country. And thus the beginning of Pride.
These were not the first of such events, but they were the ones that lead to our modern-day version of Pride. The first such marches began in Philadelphia in 1965, four years before Stonewall, by the East Coast Homophile Organization (ECHO) and were called Reminder Marches. They were used as a means to showing visibility of our community, to ensure that we were not forgotten and seen by those around us. They laid the foundation for our activists to cultivate ideals and attract people to aid in the cause. These were members who belonged to groups like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis. These were the groups focusing on providing public forums for medical views sympathetic to homosexual civil rights; creating protective, supportive social networks for homosexuals; and providing a clearinghouse for legal, medical, and personal advice for homosexuals in jeopardy. From these groups rose the beginnings of ECHO.
The meaning behind the continuation of the annual Pride celebrations is to take a positive stance on the condition of the LGBTQ community. It is a positive way to protest the treatment of our brothers and sisters, speak out against the violence and hatred, and a means of showing self-affirmation to those who are struggling to find the voice they need or the courage to be who they are. It does increase our visibility and champion our fights for equality and YES, it is a cause to celebrate. To celebrate who we are, our history, the advances we have made and to throw off the negativity we have pent up inside of us. A way to raise our voices to the heavens and let it be heard. It is a time to not take ourselves too seriously and have fun with ourselves. This should be the time we welcome our brothers and sisters in open arms, without judgement. A time for us to stand together in defiance of all of those that would tear us asunder.
Pride can be difficult for those that have yet to come to terms, fully, with their sexuality or even came out, once they have self-identified. We all know that coming out is a major event in our lives, especially if you were forced to hide it and act different than what you are inside. We all see the persecutions we STILL face, daily. We watch as this administration is hell bent on stripping away any human dignity, we have by refusing us the most basic of services and needs. This can make coming out horrific at best. So, we hide from these celebrations, distance ourselves from the celebrations out of fear that others will find out our secret. It could even be people who live in more rural areas that have not found support of locally LGBTQ groups or people, if they are even visible. There are reasons why the parades/marches are so important. It fortifies how important visibility is, it creates a safe harbor in the storm of emotions that swirl through the minds of those trying to come to terms with who they really are. We should be offering this support to those that need it most. Stop the internalized shaming we have between our varying groups and be the support and strength we say we deserve.
There are many more LGBTQ people who do feel that Pride parades aren’t needed, are over the top, some of the worst things that we can do, or simply a waste of time. Many of these feelings, at least in my opinion, come from internalized homophobia. Now before you get all upset and your panties in a bunch, let me explain that a bit more. All of us, LGBTQ or straight are brought up with ideas that shape our views, thoughts, and actions. So, at the very core, someone who grows up lesbian in small backwards town that throws out slurs and epithets, on a daily basis, will have that color their views on LGBTQ people to some degree. You have to actively choose to change your mindset to be different. We can see this when we here the terms “straight-acting” being used by gay men. These are the types of terminology that come from those with a prejudice nature. All too often, it can affect our own way of interacting without community. We may see those flamboyant (flamers) as a negative aspect of LGBTQ people or lipstick lesbians may be treated adversely because they still carry the ideal of girly girl beauty instead of a more women empowered approach. These very natures force us to distance ourselves from what we consider weak and undesirable, again traits from those who feel that LGBTQ people are less than their straight counterparts or white cisgender binary sexuality types.
Yes, you can say that I have an idyllic view of how our community should be to one another. But I would also say, I only expect the best of who we are and how we should treat one another. It is important to celebrate our differences and our similarities and Pride is the perfect time for that celebration. I only ask that you remember that it was on the shoulders of giants fighting for what we have that we have the ability to have a Pride event and the ability for you to love or dislike it for whatever reason you choose. Whatever the case may be, it is a time of reflection and to look ahead to the future of what remains to be done in advancement of our rights.