Jun 9, 2015

Reflecting on Pride

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“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ? Robert F. Kennedy

June is Pride month. I spent a little time today thinking about what that means to me and why Pride is still relevant/important. (I’ve been directly asked that before: is Pride month still relevant?) So I sat down to really think about Pride and why it’s still important to me, my family, my friends, and other LGBTQ people in the U.S. When I did, Kennedy’s quote came to mind, unbidden. “Each time a man stands up…” Huh. Isn’t that what we are doing when we come together? Are we not saying, “I’m here, and I am okay with me.” Are we not saying, “I will not stand quietly anymore. I will not lie either directly or by omission about who I am and who I love.” Are we not simply standing up to send forth a tiny ripple that encourages others to do the same?

We have seen great progress over the past few years. I can hardly identify with the terrified young lady who had to rent a room in the house of a man she didn’t know because there was nowhere else for her to go where she felt safe and loved. I can hardly believe that the young woman who moved to Ohio to get away from intolerance in the town she grew up in turned out to be the person I am today. I can hardly believe that the person who walked shamefully from a bar after a bystander spit on her, exposed himself, and called her “disgusting dyke,” grew up to finally love herself. I will admit that loosing friends and feeling rejected by even the earliest custodians of my trust pushed me backwards, closer and closer to the edge from which none of us return. I was lucky enough to have been coming of age in a time when LGBTQ people were gaining visibility and coming together to share love, even if it was just once a year at Pride events. I could attend a festival, chat with others like me, and realize I was not the one with the problem. Those who were cruel to me were the ones with the problem. And how sad for them. The greatest of opportunities to show love and share love with someone different than us wasted in moments of discrimination and hate.

Today, some things are different. Others are the same. We are still commonly asked “Why do you live here? Why not move somewhere where people are okay with your ‘lifestyle’?” (And by the way, when someone says “lifestyle,” my skin crawls.) We still live in a time where 50% of transgendered youth will attempt suicide by their 20th birthday. We still in a time where 20% of all hate crimes are rooted in anti-gay motivations. People are still fearful for their lives, their families, and their friends.

So, is Pride month still relevant? I think yes, it is relevant and is perhaps more relevant now than ever before. The first few gatherings of LGBTQ people were a stream pressing against a dam. Today, with a record number of allies, we are a tide, a tsunami forcing open that which we were barred from previously. Together, each voice, each act, each commitment to living authentically is a “numberless diverse act of courage,” as Kennedy called it. I’m proud to have so many incredible people, gay and straight, stand with me with unwavering courage. Pride month is a month for fellowship and visibility, but I suggest we also use the time to thank our allies who have walked into the fray with us. To you, in particular, I give my thanks. Let’s celebrate this month together as one people, one group of individuals who have said we are the current. We are the tide, and we are the change. And we are proud to stand together at this point in history.

The LGBT Democrats of Virginia will be at Pride celebrations across the region from June through October.  Please join us:

6/14/15 – Capital Pride – Washington, DC

6/27/15 – PrideFest (Hampton Roads Pride) – Norfolk, VA

6/27/15 – Floyd Pride – Floyd, VA

7/25/15 – Shenandoah Valley Pride – Harrisonburg, VA

9/12/15 – 9/13/15 – Roanoke Pride – Roanoke, VA

9/12/15 – Virginia Pride – Richmond, VA

9/19/15 – Charlottesville Pride – Charlottesville, VA

10/3/15 – NOVA Pride – Centreville, VA

To volunteer please contact [email protected] for more information.