What Does Pride Mean to You?
Last year, my Pride blog was easier to write. Something had happened that really fueled my thoughts on the matter. This year, it’s not that I haven’t had much to think about, but I’ve had a tough time finding the energy to write… anything.
I think that that’s okay. Sometimes, for our own health, we need to just rest; especially when we're feeling quite low.
And as we move through June, I’m rallying. I’m feeling better, and I’m starting to find my words again. Which is sorta important. I’m going to need them soon. BECAUSE CRYPTIDS IS COMING! I’m so excited! I’m really quite proud of it.
I’ll start by asking you. What does Pride mean to you? Why is queer Pride important to you? Even if you aren’t queer.
I can tell you what it means to me. For me, it’s a reminder. It’s a chance to look back and think about how far we’ve come, but it’s also a reminder of where we are now. We balance on a knife edge. Just because we’ve fought for our rights, and often won, in the US, we’re in an incredibly turbulent time, and it’s important to keep our eyes open, our ears open, and our will to fight for ourselves up. For as far as we’ve come, it can all be snatched away in a heartbeat.
It’s not just a call to memory or preparation for action, though. We have won plenty of battles so far, and while legal recognitions might be in danger, that doesn’t represent most of the people around us. That’s evidenced by the strides we’ve seen in queer representation in the media. We’ve gone from being the comic relief and other easily mocked characters to loved, central characters, the tellers of our own stories. Think of MASH and how Klinger’s tries to get out of the war was a comical representation and truly a mockery of queer identity. Jump ahead to the Golden Girls. I’m not knocking the Girls, God knows they're icons for queer rep, but that pilot episode is rough. With the live-in gay cook, ‘the fancy man.’ We started to make some head way with shows like Ellen, but even then, the fight to keep the show on the air because of the representation and queer identity showed how far there was to go. Then came the ground breaker, Will & Grace. It was funny, and yes, it made the effeminate Jack out to be comic relief, vain and vapid, but it also showed people the queer heart and queer love. Was it problematic? Oh God yes. But it started to lay the ground work. Jump to the 2000s and we get shows like Glee (still filled with problems, especially as the show went on) but we got representation of queer youth, albeit through an absurdist lens. And now we have shows like Heartstopper that highlights queer joy without sexualizing or traumatizing. Netflix’s Young Royal’s, Hulu/Disney’s Love, Victor, and Amazon’s upcoming Red, White and Royal Blue. We’re at a social milestone.
The fight is far from over, but it’s far from lost. We’re gaining ground every day. That’s something to be proud of.
Pride remains an act of social defiance, because we need it. It’s big, it’s outlandish, it’s absurd, it’s over the top. It’s a shout of ‘you can’t get rid of us.’ It’s a celebration and often exaggeration of how we’re different, and at the same time, reminding people, through the ‘extra-ness’ of it all that we're as human as they are. It’s an important call to us that each of us define how we live our own queer experience. We can live the white picket fence life, with two people and a dog, or we can live outside of the heteronormative expectations. We can conform if we choose to, or we can go against the grain. No matter what you choose, you’re living a valid expression of self. And that’s something to be proud of.
Pride is, for me, a protest against what some people say we should be, what we need to be, and it’s a celebration of ALL that we are, individually and collectively.
I’ve seen plenty of ways people try to define what it is to be queer. The common and simple LGBT, to larger and more inclusive LGBTQIAA+, and even further with silly monikers like ‘alphabet mafia’. Personally, I like queer. It’s a reclamation of a slur, it’s a ‘fuck you’ to everyone who would try to tear us down by using antiquated language for ‘different’ and accepting it as our own and shoving it back as ‘yep we are and it’s okay.’ I like it because it’s an umbrella, it’s a big tent. I like it because you don’t need to try and find a letter or a specific label. I like it because it lets each of us say simply we’re queer or say we’re queer and then further define it. It let’s each of us define our own queerness, it’s such a big place that it helps to keep gatekeepers at bay.
Pride to me is a chance to reflect on our those who fought the battles before us, who paved the way for our world today, the people like Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Gilbert Baker, Cleve Jones, Oscar Wilde, Ian McKellen, Yair Qedar, Manvendra Singh Gohil, Alex Jurgen, and countless more.
Pride is a time to celebrate who we are, what makes us different – from non-queer people, and from each other, and what makes us all human.
Last year I talked about a young woman who asked me “When does being gay get to be fun?” and then proceeded to tell me how she felt duped, when I told her that queerness isn’t a party. I still find myself getting angry about it. I still find myself getting hurt about it. I try to tell myself ‘not my chickens, not my monkeys’ because it isn’t my responsibility to educate people. But isn’t it? Isn’t it my responsibility as a queer story teller to make sure that we all at least have access to the queer legacy, so that we can continue to have a queer future? To plant the seed, to make people ask what that legacy is, even if it's just to look at it from a 50,000 foot view?
That doesn’t mean we force folks to read biographies or history books or anything like that, but we can all make recommendations, simple things like ‘maybe you should take a look at what happened at Stonewall’ or ‘did you know there was a gay rights struggle in Philadelphia even before Stonewall?’ or 'take a look at Wilde or queer history.'
Queer folks have been there through every step of history and we’ll be there through every step of the future. And that’s pretty amazing to think about, something to be proud of.
Pride is also a chance to celebrate each other in the here and now. It’s for all of us, from the out and proud ‘elder gay’, to the scared kid who sneaks onto their laptop at three am and googles ‘am I gay?’ It’s for the quiet, academic lesbian, and for your trans neighbor who’s taking their first steps in their transition. It’s for the gay kid who just came out and has literally everything adorned in rainbows, and the bi kid who’s still figuring out that it’s okay to like boys and girls. It’s for your classmate or coworker who says ‘fuck it, I’m more than a boy or a girl, and I don’t need to define myself as the same every day, because I’m not.’ And it’s for the person who strictly identifies by the binary but still says ‘I’m queer.’ It’s for the two gay men holding hands with each other and carrying their newly adopted infant, and it’s for the polyamorous family who says their love is bigger than two people.
Pride is for every queer person in the world, even the ones who can’t be out or themselves.
Just because those around you won’t see, or maybe it’s not safe to be seen by those around you, to be seen for who you are, that doesn’t detract from your part in this community.
I’ve said before that in many ways, we come out every day. It’s an endless process. And even those who can’t in some way, need to be seen, not by those who’d do them harm and maybe not even by their community.
But they need to know they aren’t alone.
Pride is a celebration that none of us are alone.
That’s what it is to me. It’s a chance to see ourselves, reflected back in this vibrant community.
So, I ask you again, what does Pride mean to you?
And as always I want to remind you:
You are seen; you are loved; you matter!