Reflections on Pride

When I was asked to write about LGBT Pride Month for, I immediately and enthusiastically said yes. I love Pride Month. It baffled me, then, as I sat down to write, that I couldn’t come up with words that made sense to me. I wanted to talk about the history of Pride, because it’s important for everyone to know that when we celebrate pride, we’re celebrating a riot. I wanted to talk about visibility for our community and this opportunity to step up and claim space in our community. But I couldn’t.

Frankly, much of what’s been on my mind when thinking about Pride of late are forty-nine of our siblings who didn’t get to celebrate this occasion with us. Pride is supposed to be about our community, working its way up from under oppression. It’s supposed to be about us being unashamed of who we are and unafraid to show our faces. But if I’m being completely honest, I am afraid.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to show up. I did show up, and I screamed out loud. I held the hands of my LGBTQ family and boldly declared our existence and celebrated that existence. But it would be hubris to claim that I wasn’t scared. Just one year ago, many or most of us were absolutely euphoric as marriage equality became the law of the land in the United States. I have some friends who are pretty radical. These folks talked all along about how marriage wasn’t even close to the most important issue facing our community, and I even saw some of them say they were overwhelmed with emotion when that decision was handed down.

None of us were under any illusion at all that our work was over. But a major victory to celebrate it certainly felt like the work had fresh momentum. Then came the failure of the Houston Equal Rights Amendment. Then came the bathroom debate. We saw people who were seeking elected office literally threatening to kill people like me if found in the “wrong” bathroom—and making these threats with impunity. Then forty-nine of our siblings were violently taken away from us near the start of the month we were supposed to be celebrating again.

Last year’s Pride celebration made me feel invincible. I could look the protestors in the eye and laugh at them because they were being left behind. I know now that those feelings may have been illusory. Of course, being able to get legally married didn’t erase the myriad other problems the queer community faces. It most especially didn’t do anything to help the members of the trans community whose names we read at the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony last year. But it at least felt like we might be going somewhere. To be clear, I believe we still are, yet this year’s celebration felt far more sober for me.

The events of this month, the bathroom debate in the US, the continued violence against trans women of color, and the many other very real problems our community faces are all crucial reminders of why Pride is a vital exercise for our community. It may appear like an excuse to get drunk, act silly, wear bright colors, and watch an awesome parade, but from the inside, it looks very different. At my first Pride, I was still in the closet. At my second, I was out, proud, and ready to show my face to the world. My third was a euphoric celebration of queer love. My fourth, the LGBT Pride Month that’s coming to a close, has been a defiant show of love and solidarity with my queer and trans siblings in the face of so much hate and violence.

I sincerely hope I live to see the day when Pride is nothing more than a party and a commemoration of a fight long over. I hope that when I’m an old woman, I’ll tell the youth of our community how backwards we used to be, and I hope those stories will make no sense to them because the world they live in will look far more inviting and affirming than ours does today. Until then, I’ll show up to celebrate my existence. I’ll show up to stare straight into the eyes of the bigots there protesting and make sure they know I’m not going anywhere.

In an interview with NPR, Eddie Meltzer, a gay man who was interpreting for the Spanish-speaking members of the Orlando families, said, “we’re strong people because we live in a world that wasn’t made for us. And if tomorrow somebody took over this country and said, we’re going to kill all the gays, I will be the first one in that square saying, shoot me with my big flag all over the place because I would rather die for what I stand for. You can’t kill me. I’m an idea, I’m timeless.” That’s a sentiment humanists, and indeed all people of compassion, can celebrate.