As June and National Gay Pride Month begin to draw to a close, Pride and its festivities have been a regular topic with friends and coworkers. My typical conversations have consisted of plans for the various Pride weekends, which drag queens would be performing, and what little clothing I or a comrade would attempt to pull off. Generally, these conversations have been shared with a friend or colleague who was already a part of the LGBT community. One colleague in particular, however—an entirely heterosexual male—recently altered the tone of the conversation, by asking a question that could have easily resulted in a heated debate: why Pride?
At the time, my eyes nearly rolled back in disbelief. What a question! Was this guy really asking this of me, an obvious member of the LGBT community? Strike one, I thought to myself.
Yet as I prepared to climb into the high seat of judgement, I decided to pause before moving the man to the top of my blacklist. Was he being sincere? Did he truly not understand why a worldwide population has celebrated and continues to observe this queer holiday on an annual basis? Or did his seemingly pointed question stem from a slanted view of sexuality—one that had been ingrained by society since his childhood? Perhaps, at the root of his apparent curiosity, it was a combination of the two.
No matter his reasoning, the question caused me to evaluate my own authority on the topic: why, in fact, does Pride exist? Is it really only a freedom march—a chance to celebrate our bodies by wearing colorful outfits, to host a drag parade, or to hunt for the hotties? I wasn’t satisfied with the assumptions that came to mind.
A bit of research provided me with a clearer understanding of Pride’s origins and of how it gradually developed into a contemporary presence over the decades. A 1970s New York City saw the very first Gay Pride celebration in the form of a public demonstration. “Gay Liberation Day” featured thousands of men and women in a defiant march up Sixth Avenue toward Central Park, voicing LGBT demands for equal rights and liberation. All this came just one year after the historic 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village—a six-day period where a mob of LGBT individuals clashed with law enforcement over the raiding of the Stonewall Inn, a known gay club at the time. Countless were imprisoned during both the raid and riots, but the incident had already become a catalyst for the Gay Rights Movement on an international scale.
Toward the early 1990s, Pride took on its present identity: a celebration of queer life and sexuality. But since its beginnings, Pride has served as a constant reminder of the vital need to fight for a society that upholds equal rights for all humans—both within and beyond the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
For those who continue to support and celebrate the beauty of Pride, you may very soon find yourself in a similar position to my own. Being asked the question, “why Pride?” is an opportunity to enlighten and to remove social barriers. For that reason, it’s important to be familiar with Pride’s historical and social significances, and to note that there are still many in our society (and our world) who don’t necessarily understand its purpose. A large population still sees Pride as a desperate call for attention, or a mere opportunity to rub one’s sexuality in the faces of others. As members and supporters of the LGBT community, it’s your responsibility to reveal to your fellow humans the colorful reality of Pride: the ways in which it continues to affect our society in a positive manner by destroying barriers and connecting people of all ages and races.
For the potential doubters—it is vital to realize just how the expressions of the LGBT community do or do not affect your personal life. Ask yourself: do they benefit you? Do they even mean a thing? Or do these expressions simply have yet to catch your attention?
If nothing else, remember this: no matter one’s attitude, the queer are here to stay, and they’re only looking for complete acceptance. So says the world.