by Minh Dong, LPC and Sam Bennett, LPC
Each June, for Pride Month, many people around the world celebrate the diversity and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride Month is dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQ voices, a celebration of LGBTQ culture, support of LGBTQ rights and progress, and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ members of society to live a full and expansive life, without fear or shame. The ways we celebrate or reflect on Pride are different for each individual. Pride can include, but is not limited to: a feeling, a culture, a recognition of dignity and equality, and an erasure of shame. It is not confined to an event or a city. In addition, this past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the racial justice movement, we have the opportunity to reimagine Pride’s position in our global society.
Since the meaning of Pride is both personal and universal, we decided to ask some LGBTQ+ individuals about what Pride means to them, and how this past year has affected how they see Pride within themselves, others, and the world around them.
My relationship with Pride is one that is constantly evolving and changing; as am I, as a gay person. Pride to me means being able to be more freely express myself as a gay person. I am very thankful that I am living in a time when being gay isn't as stigmatized as it was 50 years ago. I'm thankful that I can announce that I am gay and not feel like I have to be on the defense or ashamed of it. I think that Pride is a time for celebration, that we as queer people can be “out” and express ourselves and our love. I'm thankful for that. I also think that Pride should be a time for gratitude and humility. Gratitude for those that fought at Stonewall; gratitude for those that rose up and finally said, "No more." We should feel humility for those that can't take part in Pride due to violence, disease, suicide, stigmatization, fear, or overall hate (whether it's self-inflicted or placed upon them from others). Pride means that I can say "no more" in my own way. I get to say that to myself in moments of doubt and fear. In moments when I think that I'm being watched for looking at the Pride merchandise in Target or even wearing a rainbow sweatshirt. I get to say it to family members that don't want to understand or respect me. I get to say it to those who think I'm less than just because I'm gay. Pride means...getting to fight for me and all queer people. It's a beautiful rainbow world, and I wouldn't want to be a part of any other one.
This past year has caused a lot of introspection and reflection. I didn't care about the parades or parties being cancelled because of COVID, because Pride is so much more than that. Sure, those things are all great and really have become a great symbol of freedom of expression and joy and love and connection. However, those things can all be done even without the parades. 2020 Pride was more about confronting racial biases and racism. QPOC are the most stigmatized people, and ESPECIALLY trans people of color. We have Pride today because of a black trans woman. White gay people HAVE to be doing more to support our fellow QPOC. White gays are so often celebrated for the most mundane of things and think that they're at the apex of the gay rights movement, when in fact they're standing on the backs of people of color who have been doing it better and longer than the white gay boy. This past year has forced me to confront my inner biases, my internalized homophobia, my racism, and my prejudices. I know that I still have a long way to go, however when I look back at how far I've come, I'm again filled with pride and the ability to say "No more".
I've never been one for parades personally because that's just too much noise and too many people, and it's hot. I don't need a parade but I love and support them for everything they are. I celebrate Pride by living my authentic life. I celebrate by educating myself on queer history. I celebrate by supporting queer artists, whether that's buying something from a gay person's Etsy account or tipping a drag queen. I celebrate by donating money to various organizations (this year I'm looking into "Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus" and "Black and Pink"). Pride is something that can be celebrated any of the 12 months; however, I do think that maybe during June there is a little something extra in the air.
**I may also occasionally ask my straight friends to buy me an iced coffee.**
Pride is the time to bring out the energy that you kept hidden inside you for so long. Pride should not only be celebrated one month out of the year but every month of the year. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in a conservative religious household was difficult to say the least. I had to always hide part of myself to my friends and family. I was finally brave enough to come out by the end of high school and fully out by the beginning of college. Though it was not easy, I felt like ever since then, I have been trying to celebrate pride as much as possible. I am unapologetically myself 24/7.
This past year was definitely hard, not just for me but for everyone. Although we (as in the gay community) celebrate hard and go hard, we were able to take a pause and put others before ourselves. At this moment, I was so proud of our community. We were able to put public safety before our own desires. The pandemic reinvigorated my love for the community and how we look out for others.
How does one celebrate pride? Does it mean going to the parade and going out partying all weekend like most people do? This is a hard one. I definitely enjoy them, but it could be repetitive. I often like to celebrate with my partner and my friends by gathering at a house and having our own celebration. We tend to reminisce about each of our coming out stories, the good and bad, and really embrace each other.