The Day After Pride
Many of you will be reading this article after one of this month’s many LGBT Pride events. First established to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 27-28, 1969, LGBT Pride is now observed worldwide as a community-wide celebration that unites all genders, races, classes and lifestyles.
By taking part in Pride events, we assert who we, as individuals and as a people. We contribute all that is good in us to Pride events and in return Pride makes us feel good about ourselves and others like us. In short, Pride is a tremendous morale booster and an antidote to self-hatred and internalized heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia.
Unfortunately, Pride events are usually followed by all-too real and not very proud reality. After Pride ends, we return to a world that seems to hate us as much as it did before Pride began. Back in the 1980s, bad news always seemed to follow a Pride celebration. As if the mounting AIDS casualties were not bad enough, Pride Month 1986 ended with the now-infamous Supreme Court decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (since overruled by Lawrence v. Texas).
The 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (which was a Pride event writ large) was soon followed by U.S. Senate approval of one of the late Senator Jesse Helms’s notorious amendments that would have banned federal assistance for LGBT or AIDS groups. Pride Month will not keep AIDS from killing us, bashers from hurting us, or bigots from trying to send us back into our closets.
But Pride parades and festivals do not last forever and, once Pride Month ends, the emotional and spiritual energy we acquired during those events seem to disappear. This does not have to be this way. Pride, as a state of mind as opposed to a particular event, should be with us year-round.
I admit that it is natural and essential for humans to rest after an overly-active week or month of celebration; in order to recharge our batteries, relax and enjoy ourselves. But LGBT and questioning kids continue to take their own lives; same-sex loving men continue to test HIV positive; queers everywhere continue to suffer from hate crimes and antigay violence; and bigots of all kinds continue to make life hard for us.
Therefore, it is important that we keep the spirit of Pride alive long after Pride is over. Let Pride be not an end but a beginning. For some of us, the annual Pride events are our only contact with the rest of our community. But do not wait until next year for your next contact. Let the goals of Pride Month be your goals for life:
- TAKE PRIDE IN YOURSELF
Internalized homophobia is still a part of our lives. “Ex-gay” groups prey on those of us who still believe what straight society taught us. Do not let yourselves fall into that trap. Nor should you let confusion and self-hatred lead you into addictive behaviors, unsafe sex, loneliness or suicide. There are many individuals and groups that can help.
- COME OUT
If all the lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people who “come out” for Pride Month remain out, society would surely have to notice. Studies show that heterosexuals who personally know LGBT people tend to be less prejudiced than those who do not. Though announcing our sexual orientation might not be right for all of us, being honest with our loved ones seldom hurts and usually improves our relationships. And if the person in question turns you off because you are LesBiGay or Trans, more often than not that person is not worth our effort.
- HELP A FRIEND IN NEED
As the Jewish sage Hillel observed, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?” Closely linked to taking Pride in ourselves is taking pride in our sisters and brothers. If you know someone who is in a life-threatening situation - whether it be AIDS, cancer, substance abuse, impending suicide, domestic violence, homelessness or hopelessness - give them a helping hand, always remembering that they, too, have their Pride. If you do not know anyone who needs our help (though I find it hard to believe), volunteer to help at your local AIDS organization, battered women’s home, homeless shelter or community center. There is enough Pride to go around.
- BE A PART OF YOUR “FAMILY OF PRIDE”
It is impossible to take part in Pride events without encountering a variety of community organizations. They serve a variety of purposes, not the least of which is the reassurance that we are not alone. There are literally thousands of LGBT and AIDS-service organizations in the U.S. and Canada, all of which translate into thousands of reasons that we can proud of. Surely there are at least one that you can call your own. By joining such a group, you will get involved in activities that you enjoy, meet like-minded people and help make our world a better place to live in.
- BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION
I do not have to remind you that we live in a tough world. Things are often not easy for us, and things might get worse if we do not watch out. As the saying goes, if we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem. Let us make Pride work for us, by fighting for our lives, our communities and for our rights. There is a variety of activist groups that can use your political energies, from those that work within the system to more aggressive, “in your face” entities. If you feel you do not have the time for active involvement, then vote, write, phone or email your representatives and make a financial contribution to your local LGBT advocacy group.
All of this should keep the adrenalin flowing and the Pride growing throughout the coming year. Let LGBT Pride be more than just a slogan. In the immortal words of gay folk singer Charlie Murphy, we must “love life enough to struggle.” Working together, we can make a difference.