June is national pride month, a month set aside to remember, celebrate, and empower queer people and our contributions to the flourishing of humanity. All across the country, LGBT+ people and our allies will be gathering for festivals, parades, parties, demonstrations, and marches that boldly proclaim that we are not ashamed of our queerness and that we will not be silent until we have achieved full freedom and equality in our society and every society around the world.
Yet during this month, there will also l be a lot of pushback from the heterosexual communities and individuals who just don’t understand what this whole pride thing is about. I cant tell you the number of times I have been cornered by straight people who look me in the eyes and say, “I’m okay with you all being gay, but why do you have to flaunt it in the streets? You don’t see straight people doing that!”
To which I respond “Bullshit”.
I mean that in the kindest, most sincere way possible. But straight and cisgender people are the most visible people on planet earth, not just because of their sheer numbers, but because their relationships, sexuality, and gender expressions are seen as the “normative” expressions, and therefore, uplifted and repeated in every community around the country. Straight, cisgender people hold hands as they walk down the street without fear of getting accosted. They watch television shows and movies, listen to music, and read books that center on their relationships and gender expression. The majority of advertisements on billboards, websites, and television center on heterosexual and cisgender people. And our government is set up to privilege and favor heterosexual relationships above all others.
In short, straight people flaunt their straightness all day, every day, in every part of this country. And despite the far-right narrative that the “gays” are taking over our country, for a majority of LGBT+ people in America, it is still incredibly uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst to express ourselves in our communities. In a majority of states across our country, our rights and dignity are not fully protected by the law, and, in fact, there are fierce movements that seek to oppress and marginalize us and our relationships.
So, while we have seen tremendous progress in the fight for LGBT+ equality, inclusion, and rights in the United States, the reality is that we are incredibly far from being fully equal in every realm of society. And that is why pride is so important.
For many LGBT+ people, pride is the one time of the year that they can be out and proud of who they are and who they love. It’s the one time of year that they can stand boldly in the streets with droves of other queer individuals, proclaiming that we are fully human and deserve to be celebrated and uplifted just like everyone else. Even in cities that are seen as LGBT+ friendly, it is still an incredibly healing experience to get to march in parades or attend festivals where thousands upon thousands of LGBT+ people are letting their lights shine before all people without fear. Pride is often the beginning of the process of healing from the trauma inflicted on us by our heterosexist, patriarchal society. Pride is a time where we step out of the shadows and declare that we will no longer forced to suppress our truest selves because of heterosexual fragility and fear.
Now, of course, in the midst of all of the deeper causes and meanings behind pride, it is also, most importantly, a time of celebration. It’s a time to party, to relax, and to let loose in public, which is something that heterosexual and cisgender people get to do every single day of the year, but something that LGBT+ people simply don’t get to do. So yes, people of all shapes, sizes, religions, ethnicities, races, and cultures will be marching through the streets shirtless, and perhaps even pantless (hello speedos!) but this has a lot less to do with LGBT+ being hyper-sexual or promiscuous- instead, it’s a radical display of liberation and safety, a time to let our bodies and lives be seen as the beautiful displays of creativity and majesty that they are- something, again, that straight people get to see and do every single day.
Pride marches and festivals were started as subversive displays of light in the midst of the darkness of heternormitivty and hatred, and today, for many, if not most LGBT+ people, they still retain this important meaning and power. Though they may look like giant parties in the street, take a second and think about what it feels like to march through a city, freely expressing who you are, whom you love, and what you desire for the first time without fearing that you’ll be accosted, abused, or mocked. Think about all of the children and teenagers who know they are LGBT+ but cannot even begin to fathom taking a step out of the closet for fear of abuse from their families, churches, or peers, who look out at those celebrating pride and see a glimpse of hope that things can get better, and that they can be free, safe, and celebrated for who they are. That is the power of pride, and that’s why pride month is so damn important.
So, if you’re a straight person and you’re finding yourself perplexed by the pride celebrations taking place in your city this year, stop and remember that you get to live out and proud every single day without fear, without oppression, and without even thinking about it. That is a unique gift that majority of LGBT+ people have never gotten to experience. Think about all of the hurdles to equality that still exist in our nation, and the trauma that so many LGBT+ people have faced simply because of who they are or who they love. And as you reflect on the reality of LGBT+ people, I hope you begin to realize the importance and power of pride, and perhaps will even decide to pick up a rainbow flag and stand on the sidelines cheering on your local LGBT+ community as they fearlessly express their beauty in your community.
“When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”
- President Barack Obama