It's Pride Month (also known in some circles as “June”) and in malls, streets, and corporate spaces across America we’re about to be inundated with a ridiculous number of rainbows.
It. Is. Awesome.
To me, it feels like Gay Christmas… the anticipation leading up to the events, the feelings of warmth, welcoming, and family, the many happy celebrations, and the excessive amount of money I want to spend buying everything from t-shirts to tire jacks as long as they have a rainbow on them.
But with the exuberant (and sometimes ostentatious) celebrations of Pride, I am met with the same questions each year:
Why do you need to celebrate who you’re sleeping with?
Why do you have to be so loud about it and cram it down everyone else’s throat?
If you want to be treated equally, why can’t you just act that way and not make a big deal out of being gay?
So, let’s talk about these points and what Pride has meant to me in the past two years (the only years I’ve been “out” and celebrating Pride).
It Is Not a Celebration of Sexual Acts
It’s adorable (insert hippopotamus-sized sarcastic face here) when someone asks me why queer people feel the need to be so vocal about who they’re sleeping with. Some people have offered up the phrase, “What you do behind closed doors doesn’t matter to me,” in an apparent attempt at allyship. It’s not, and here is why…
Let’s do a quick exercise in empathy. If you’re in a heterosexual relationship, close your eyes for a moment and envision that last time someone asked you a question where your response involved mentioning your significant other. Something like, “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, my husband and I went hiking.” Now image if their follow-up to your response was, “Listen, what you do behind closed doors doesn’t matter to me.”
What did that feel like in your insides? Shame, like what you said was somehow wrong or inappropriate? Weird? (Because it IS really fucking weird). Annoyance at the fact that they’ve just reduced your entire relationship with your love to a sexual act?
Maybe it didn’t bring up any feelings for you because of the absurdity of that. Nobody views a heterosexual relationship as just “who you’re sleeping with.” And yet, for the queer community, that is most often how our lives and relationships are portrayed. (Just ask Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to explain WHAT exactly is considered “sexually inappropriate” for K-3rd graders. Hint: It’s that the mere mention or vision of homosexual relationships are “sexually inappropriate.” Heterosexual relationships portrayed the exact same way are not).
When you ask me why I am being so vocal about who I am sleeping with, it tells me that you do not see my relationship with my partner as something similar to yours.
Pride Is a Civil Rights Movement, Not a Sexual Celebration
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I would argue that at its core Pride is NOT a celebration of sexual attraction or gender identity. It is a civil rights movement because of the discrimination we face AS A RESULT OF our sexual attraction or gender identity. Pride is our annual reminder that homophobia and transphobia thrive in silence, and so we show up loudly!
Pride started as a fight against systems of LGBTQIA+ oppression, with many of these prominent riots being led by transgender women. For me, Pride events have always had two main purposes:
to create a safe environment where LGBTQIA+ people are allowed to show up as their full selves without fear of judgment and
to bring visibility to the fact that LGBTQIA+ people exist in our society (and in greater numbers than many people assume), so that the next generation doesn’t have to feel so alone.
But What About Those Pride Attendees
I’m not saying that Pride Celebrations are not without some challenges, after all we are a community made up of a diverse group of people in the realm of attraction or gender (or sometimes both). There is splintering within the LGBTQIA+ community about where the line is when it comes to “showing up as their full selves” with groups like the leathermen, Pup Play, and anything geared towards kink. At the same time, I read this interesting article which reminded me that there is nothing any more sexual or inappropriate about how they exist at Pride that we don’t already see in our everyday life at the beach, on TV, from some former presidents, and during Halloween.
Are they sometimes scantily clad? Yes. Do I have an idea of what they’re into sexually? Sure. Are they doing anything sexually inappropriate just by existing in that space? Not at all.
They are just one component of Pride, not the complete definition and identification of what it means to be LGBTQIA+ (and I’m sure members of the asexual crowd will back me up on that one). And any hard feelings within the LGBTQIA+ towards these groups is more-often misdirected anger. The issue is not with these people (and pups). It’s with the homophobic and transphobic crowd who tries to mischaracterize and hypersexualize ALL LGBTQIA+ individuals.
The Rainbow Invasion
Around July 4th, stores and websites everywhere are draped in red, white, and blue. During November and December, we’re swaddled in messages about the Christmas season with a smattering of Hannukah and a sprinkle of Kwanzaa and Solstice mixed in. In June, we wear rainbow.
Why do I bring this up? Because in nearly every month there is a celebration and stores, advertisements, and city celebrations get on board. Perhaps the majority of people don’t feel upset about such displays because the majority of people don’t feel excluded from them.
I can see how Pride might feel like something that is “crammed down your throat” if you cannot see yourself in the celebration. But the beauty of Pride is that it is a space where all are welcome as LGBTQIA+ members and allies. If you don’t fit either of those categories, Pride will welcome you with open arms when you are ready to work through your own feelings about why letting LGBTQIA+ people exist doesn’t feel okay to you. Pride is a celebration of love for ourselves and each other.
Identifying as Something Other
The last comment, about Pride being a way to “other” ourselves from mainstream has always been curious to me. It is a primal need of ours to seek community and we do so in so many ways. It might be through participating in festivals or groups related to our heritage, joining fitness groups that rhyme with Shmroth Fit, congregating with others of the same religious beliefs, attending meetups with those from our alma mater, working through addiction with others who have gone through the same, or diving onto plastic tables with the Bills Mafia.
Community feels good. Community also provides a sense of safety. Pride is not an attempt by the LGBTQIA+ to stand out. For many of us, it’s a space where we feel like we finally fit in. I’m sure all of us reading this can think of some group in our lives where we feel a sense of belonging too. Take a moment to think about a belonging that you cherish. Now you understand what Pride feels like for me.
But, it’s also important to note that being part of the LGBTQIA+ community is ONE piece of my identity. It’s also the piece of my identity that others feel most compelled to judge and criticize without solicitation. So, I guess my question is when people cannot see my love for my partner as some equal to their love for their partner, who is “othering” whom?
The Famous Gay Agenda
As I prepare my next awesome rainbow outfit for the next awesome Pride event, I can’t help but smile knowing that I am a small piece of a greater movement towards allowing everyone to show up in this world as their whole, authentic selves. I get a sparkle of joy and that thought that my children’s generation will feel more valued and accepted just the way they were created to be.
And now the big reveal. I’m going to let you in on the Gay Agenda that people like to talk about and yet nobody in the queer community has been able to find the Google invite for…
My goal, and the goal of so many other LGBTQIA+ people is just to be seen with the same worth as everyone else. We will always continue to celebrate ourselves as a community, but the “loudness” of our activism will not go away until we are treated equitably in society. As a good friend just told me, “I just want to have the same opportunities to fail as the next guy.”
Happy Pride, Loves! You are always welcome to sit with me.
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