This is the time of year when GLBT communities around the world celebrate
Gay Pride. The June/July period was chosen to honour the Stonewall Riots
that occurred in 1969 in New York, the first time gay people fought back physically against police
harassment and entrapment. The riots involved 300 gay men, lesbians, and drag queens.
This historic event sparked the modern LGBT equality movement throughout the world,
bringing LGBT people together like never before. But OutUK correspondent
Josh Aterovis wonders what it means more than 40 years on.
Chances are you won't be hearing any proclamations or statements in honour of Pride
from church leaders. However, you probably will hear someone saying that gay pride
celebrations are a passť concept. That it's silly to be proud of being gay because it's
like being proud to have brown eyes -- it's something you have no control over. Maybe
you've even said or thought the same thing yourself. Now I'm the first to insist that
everyone has the right to their own opinions, but I don't necessarily agree with that idea.
I understand the concept that we should be proud of who we are rather than what we
are. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do that right away.
I think it's great
when people are secure enough to simply be proud of accepting themselves, but I
do think "gay pride" has its place -- especially for young gay kids or people
first coming out. It's a need of many oppressed minorities (think Black Pride, or
Girl Power). It takes something that is traditionally demeaned and makes it something
powerful. It makes it easier to accept being gay if it's something to be proud of versus
something to be ashamed of.
When I was first coming out, I wore rainbow Pride necklaces all the time. I never
left home without one. I grew up in an extremely conservative religious family, never
knowing a single openly gay person. For me, as it is for many from rural areas or
religious upbringings, being gay wasn't something to be proud of. These necklaces
were a physical link to a community to which I didn't feel I fully belonged yet.
I wanted to belong, but I was still searching for my own individual identity, which at the time
was almost consumed by the fact that I was gay.
Wearing that necklace, that symbol
of pride, of belonging, allowed me to be proud of something I was still coming to
terms with. It helped me to be proud of what I was: a gay man.
As I became more comfortable with who I was, I found I didn't need to constantly
announce the fact that I was gay. Being gay no longer defined me as a person. It
was merely a part of my sum total. My pride shifted from what I was to who I was --
but I needed that first step. I had to accept being gay before I could become a whole person.
That's why I think gay pride is still extremely important -- maybe now more than ever.
The LGBT community is under attack in the US even though they have won the right of equal
marriage from the Supreme Court. A vocal minority of people who claim to be religious are frequently
misquoting scriptures to spread hatred and fear.
We've gained visibility, but with visibility comes increased attention. Homophobic attacks still take place
in the heart of our cities, sometimes resulting in severe injury or death.
There is an abundance of negative
information floating around out there these days, so what messages are gay kids receiving?
If they're relying on the mainstream media, the messages are coming through loud and clear.
Sexual orientation is excluded from equal opportunities legislation, so
gay people do not deserve the same rights as others. Gay families are less valid than
"traditional families." It's okay to discriminate against minorities. Hate is
acceptable when it's targeted at those without rights.|
We need to counter those messages with the truth, and one of the ways we can do that is through Pride.
Imagine, for a minute, a young gay child. Maybe he doesn't even know he's gay yet, or
maybe he's just starting to realize his attraction for other boys. Maybe he only
understands that he is different. He's being inundated with negative information on a
daily basis: from school, from church, and maybe even from his
parents. Where are the positive messages?
The Right would like us to live in shame, fear, and silence. Pride celebrations
defy them in a powerful and positive way. By making ourselves visible and celebrating
who we are, we're sending a clear message to both our critics and impressionable minds.
We're here, we're queer, and we're not going anywhere!
To me, Gay Pride Month is less about those of us who are already out and more about
those who have yet to make that step. It's a powerful statement, but the best part is,
we get to have fun while making it! Gay Pride events are being planned all across the
country and world, but you don't have to join one of the large planned galas.
You can make a statement right where you are, about who you are.
American author Richard D. Mohr, writer of
The Long Arc
of Justice: Lesbian and Gay Marriage, Equality, and Rights, relates this story in
his book. "The town I live in is girded by cornfields. It's
nowhere near large enough to support a gay pride parade the last weekend in June,
when cities across America commemorate with parades the so-called Stonewall Riots
that launched the modern lesbian and gay rights movement in 1969. The town's gay men
and lesbians do something at once more radical and more ordinary than that. We have
a gay contingent in the town's all-American Fourth of July parade. The parade
draws in crowds from all of the county and much of the rest of east-central
Illinois. Last year, a purple parade banner streamed by the crowds reading
'Lesbian and Gay Pride.' I saw a little girl, maybe five, lean over to her
father and ask, 'Daddy, what does pride mean?' Apparently she knew what
lesbian and gay meant."
Whether you do it in the city or in the country, as
part of a large celebration or a small act of defiance, get out there and show
your pride! It's important.