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Pride celebrations keep the LGBTQ community together

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The misconception about LGBTQ Pride Month so often held by straight people — specifically that particular brand of Redditor who virulently suggests establishing straight pride parades and men's history month — is that Pride emerged in a vacuum.

In a world that consistently centers straight, white, male identities, people who are straight, white and male often have trouble understanding why a group of people might need to center themselves. I'm convinced that most of the time it's not even malicious, just misguided.

So here's a brief history lesson to shed some light on the queer perspective. In June of 1969, riots broke out at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay club in New York. The LGBTQ community, which had been raided, criminalized and forced to endure systematic violence, rose up in defense of themselves and spawned marches across the country. Their fury and resilience, and the sheer volume and reach of their resistance, changed the course of American history.

We owe a lot to our LGBTQ foreparents, more than most of us young'uns will ever understand. They've fought for decades so that we wouldn't have to. At least, so we wouldn't have to fight as hard. The concept of Pride builds on the legacy they established for us.

So when someone moans onto a messageboard about how the "gays" would be furious if a heterosexual pride parade existed, I almost want to laugh.

As a card-carrying gay, I can say with confidence that we're used to society celebrating heterosexuality, and frankly we wouldn't have the energy to be furious every time they did. Because our culture assumes (and expects) heterosexuality and traditional gender expression, heterosexual, cisgender (identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth) people don't need to come together as a community the way LGBTQ people always have.

Nic Grzecka (owner of Club Q and one of the co-organizers of our local PrideFest) says: "I think it's important that we still do this, because it is so much more socially acceptable to be gay. Our sense of community gets lost in a sense because people don't understand [where] our movement in our community came from."

But more than anchoring us in a historical perspective, Pride serves as an affirmation for those who still don't have accepting families or workplaces, or those who are disconnected from the LGBTQ community.

"There are those people who cannot be themselves in their ordinary lives," says Water Xaris, another PrideFest co-organizer. "Every day of the year, they have to wear a mask, and Pride gives them the opportunity to take that mask off and be their most authentic self."

Grzecka says Pride also serves a larger function, helping the individual as well as the wider community. "It's important to us to stay strong as a community, especially when we're still fighting," he says. And we are certainly still fighting.

He brings up a recent Colorado bill that would have enabled transgender people to more easily change the gender on their birth certificate, which failed to pass in 2017 for the third consecutive year. He also mentions last year's shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a heartbreaking loss of life that we'll mourn in the middle of June — Pride Month.

LGBTQ people are the most likely targets of hate crimes in the U.S., 2014 FBI data showed, and many states still don't protect us when it comes to housing or employment. We are still stigmatized by those who hate us, sexualized by many who claim to support us, and largely disregarded now that we've achieved marriage equality — a right that people continue to debate.

Our country still needs accurate education about LGBTQ issues, which goes hand-in-hand with visibility and familiarity. Pride Month and PrideFest help us assert ourselves in the local and national landscape, to tell other LGBTQ people that they aren't alone, and to gain support among straight, cisgender allies who often have social capital that we don't.

Yes, we take the month of June to celebrate ourselves, and every summer we host a big party and we drink and we dance and we cover ourselves with rainbow body paint, but that celebration means so much more than what it looks like on the surface.

Society tells us from a young age that we are somehow deviant, different and therefore wrong. If we have the chance to take the very aspect of our identities that has been used to oppress us and turn it around — to turn our shame into pride — why wouldn't we?

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