Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation designating the month of June to be observed as LGBT pride month, in recognition “…that love is love and that no person should be judged by anything but the content of their character.”
The proclamation went on further to state that “During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, [we should] celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans.”
It was a bold and much needed statement. Although we did achieve a small victory in the form of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of marriage equality one year ago this month, we still have very far to go towards true equality for LGBT people. It's a sad, unfortunate truth, which the proclamation also recognized and aimed to address specifically by instituting an official, nationally recognized LGBT Pride month; a month for LGBT people.
Since its inception, the movement for LGBT equality has focused heavily on the concept of pride, seemingly much to the bewilderment of straight and cisgender individuals. Often I’ve been asked, and heard others being asked what there is to be proud of. As unfortunate as this level of seemingly ubiquitous ignorance is, I can’t say it’s entirely unexpected in a society which marginalizes LGBT people by institutionalizing homophobia and transphobia to the point that we are all essentially brought up to believe that hatred and violence towards queer and trans people should be thought of as not only normal, but even correct and praiseworthy.
So, I was similarly unsurprised when I loaded twitter this morning to find that #HeterosexualPrideDay was one of the top trending hashtags. I was, however, disappointed.
If you’re confounded by this, or are finding yourself tempted to jump to the conclusion that I must simply have something against straight and cis people, allow me to clarify that this is not the case at all, and to enlighten you on why the very idea of “straight pride” comes as a complete slap in the face to LGBT people.
Simply put, there is a common misconception among straight cis people that LGBT pride indicates some proud sense of superiority for being queer or trans, or at the very least that we consider ourselves to be somehow “special” simply for who we love, or for our gender identity without regard to any socioeconomic or cultural context, and I’m going to admit that if that were the case, I too might find it a bit odd, just as odd as taking pride in being heterosexual or cisgender, but in reality, that’s not actually what LGBT pride is about at all.
LGBT pride, isn’t just about being proud of who we love or the fact that we have a gender identity, obviously straight people love people too, and cis people also have a gender identity, but while straight people’s orientations and cis people’s gender identities are considered “normal,” and go completely unquestioned by society, for LGBT people, nothing could be farther from the case.
We actually face institutionalized violence, oppression, and discrimination simply on the basis of who we love, or because our gender identity fails to conform to the expectations of the western gender binary. it really wasn’t all that long ago that one could be imprisoned, lobotomized or even executed for their orientation, or gender identity, as a matter of fact in some nations that’s still happening to this day, and even in many supposedly “modernized,” “first world” nations, including the United States, you can still be denied a job, housing, safe access to public facilities like restrooms and homeless shelters, and even access to emergency medical care, just for being LGBT.
That’s where LGBT pride comes from, the fact that we live in a society where it is by nature a defiant and revolutionary act to even live openly, much less with pride in spite of the overwhelming marginalization, and danger that comes along with that.
It’s more than pride. It’s an act of rebellion and defiance against an oppressive system which often seems bent on exterminating us simply for being different.
Straight pride is unnecessary because our cisheteronormative society teaches us all to view straight cis people as the default. They will never be discriminated against for either of those things because society would never conceivably back up an attempt at discrimination or oppression targeting straight or cis people. Simply put, if you're straight and cis, this month is not about you, and shouldn't have to be about you because, by comparison, every other day of the year essentially already belongs to you.
So, if you’re among those wondering why you don’t get a straight or cis pride day, perhaps you should instead take the time to be thankful that you don’t need one in order to ever have any hope of reaching a day when society won’t treat you like you’re less than human and possibly even kill you in response to who you love, or the way you were born.
And if you want something to be proud of, you could start by taking active steps to put an end to the violence LGBT people face.
Uplift our marginalized voices without speaking over them by sharing what we have to say about the oppression we face. Write a letter to your congressperson demanding LGBT inclusive protection, Speak up the next time a friend or a coworker says something hateful or untrue about LGBT people, You can even just reach out and tell a trans person or a gay person you know that they’re loved. many of us lose our families just for being queer, and loved is the last thing an experience like that makes you feel like you are.
You never know, your kindness could even be the reason that one of us chooses to go on living another day, and that would be something to be proud of.
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