This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the third anniversary of the Pulse shootings. It’s the perfect time to re-examine our relationship with Pride. So often we take Pride for granted. Sure, it’s a time to day-drink, dodge your exes, and oggle at guys and girls in sequined, yet, theoretical underwear. But it is also a time for all of us under the LGBTQIA umbrella to get together, show up, and shine.
Let’s be honest – as queer people, we internalize a lot of trauma. It could be from bullies on the playground. Perhaps it’s rejection or abandonment by our parents. We’re even hated by total strangers based on their hypocritical take on religious texts. We can brush it off all we want. But those negative feelings have to go somewhere. That alienation can often cause us to continue alienating ourselves from each other. As queer people, we have so much more in common with our LGBTQIA brothers, sisters, and genderless siblings but tend to focus on our differences.
Pride is a chance for us all to come together. We get to celebrate life, love, and being “gay.” While some may bristle at being labeled gay due to their particular identity politics. It does mean happy. What’s so wrong with being called happy. We can get so divisive because of our political differences, personal triggers, and problems in our lives. But Pride is the perfect time to get back to basics and be happy again. It’s a time to reflect on what we are proud of and how far we have come.
It’s likely not a coincidence that the word gay is used to describe us. We have the biological imperative to keep our world from becoming basic, stagnant, and a fiery ball of trash. We are artists, innovators, and iconoclasts. We make people happier, make the world prettier and are a force for change. For some of us, our simple existence is an act of protest to the status quo. That elicits change and change inspires growth. We spread inspiration and healing through our art, humor, politics or a truly intuitive read. Our flag is a rainbow not just because we are made of so many colors but because like a rainbow we come together to bring light to the world.
To celebrate the full colors of our rainbow flag, here’s a shout out to, and a not-so-subtle reminder of, the amazing people who will be at Pride that you might miss if you’re in the thirst trap or had too much sauce. But if you open up, their presence just might cure what ails you.
You may not see them at the clubs, on the apps, or out and about. That’s because they’re busy living their best family lives. It’s easy to get a little teary-eyed when you see elderly couples with signs advertising relationships that have lasted decades. There was a time when having a partner was not a legal option, let alone being allowed to raise a family. Seeing long-term couples, and queer parents are inspirations for the next generation. But it’s also a reminder that we not only deserve love but can find it.
Whitney Houston believed our children were the future. It’s easy to forget that just by being our authentic selves we are paving the way for the next generation of queer youth. We can forget our first Pride. The excitement of being overwhelmed by throngs of people like you. The rush of the freedom to be yourself can dull as the years progress. But every year is someone’s first pride. It may be a preteen with their parents, a late-in-life lesbian, or a newly transitioned person ready to celebrate their new life. Heartbreak, drama, and jadedness can dull our excitement. But look to those fresh faces. Pride is a great time to reconnect with the baby gay in all of us and remember that joy. If you’re having trouble mustering the excitement, think of the people at their first Pride. Many of us were robbed of mentors because of the AIDS crisis. But now we can be those mentors. So muster up a smile or live your full fantasy because you just might be inspiring someone.
As far as we have come, there are still parents who throw out their LGBTQ children. Some cut off their kids financially, or worse use abuse and shame to suppress their children. A lot of people are walking around pride with their own Daddy or Mommy issues. But Pride is a chance to see all the supportive parents who show up for their kids. Some offer free hugs or support. Some wear shirts to show their love of their queer children. Let’s not forget all the great work of PFLAG who is marching at a Pride near you. Seeing these supportive parents can be healing. We don’t all have the best relationships with our parents but seeing these parents lets us know it is possible. It may not heal all of your issues with your mom or dad but seeing that love can help your heart thaw a little.
Anyone who takes time out of their schedule to show up as an ally may just be worth your vote or attention. And if you’re a Jaded Judy who thinks politicians may just show up just for votes. You may be right. That’s why we all must do our research. Given our current “President” now is an important time to research our local politicians, their voting records, and hold them accountable. We can influence change by showing up to our voting booths, community meetings, or on the phone with our Congressional representatives to ensure we are heard. Pride is a great reminder we are powerful together.
Sure Pride attracts straight looky-loos but it’s also nice to think that we do have allies. It’s also important to remember, so much of our community association is about what we do behind closed doors. As frustrating as it can be to see Deborah and Jeff being messy at Pride. They may be card-carrying queers. It’s also important to realize when the chips are down they are likely to be by our side. We must check some of our past pain at feeling excluded and remember to let everyone join the party. There are more people showing up to Pride to party rather than to protest it. That’s a huge win for our community and a sign of our changing times.
Our trans sisters are getting murdered. We must honor them not just with social media posts. We must show up for them, spread the word, and respect them in real life. We must make conscious efforts to help them get employment, respect, and visibility. We must look out for them. Trans women of color were in the fight at Stonewall yet 50 years later they are the only community in America still being lynched. That is egregious. We are a community of people that span various races, ages, gender identities, sexual proclivities, economic backgrounds, and life experiences. But we all could stand to check our various privileges look for each other. So let Pride be a reminder of all the people who do not look like you that you can help. When we help others we help ourselves…spiritually.
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there are people who have come before us. Marsha P. Johnson. Harvey Milk. Oscar Wilde. James Baldwin. Frida Kahlo. Mathew Shepherd. The people we have lost to HIV, hate crimes, and police attacks. The people who died nameless and alone. Whether you believe they are there literally, energetically, or just in memory. People have paved the way to let us walk down the street in rainbow regalia. On some level, their memory lives on with us. It’s a good moment to remember all the people who couldn’t and still can’t live as freely as we do. In those moments, we should put aside our petty problems and be Proud for them and of them. We can have gratitude for our freedom. Because you simply can’t be unhappy when you are grateful.
Pride is a magical time where we all are nicer to each other and more outwardly happy. We get to reconnect with friends, hook up and be extra AF. But Pride is more than just a parade. It’s a rallying cry. It’s a privilege that was paved by and paid for by the lives of so many. So the least we can do is do our best to heal ourselves so we can help heal our community. We can learn to love ourselves more so we can help spread more love. And we can truly embody Pride all year round because we are here to make the world a better place. And if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. To quote singer Heather Small from a vintage Pride anthem, “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”