Why we need Pride
Every year as the date of the local Pride Parade approaches, I start seeing the comments and questions: “If you get a Gay Pride Parade, why can’t we have a Straight Pride Parade?” I can’t decide which is the saddest aspect of this question: 1) that they think this tired old canard is actually being clever, 2) that they don’t understand that 99.9% of all television, movies, news, and other public discourse is geared toward affirming heterosexual life, including straight sexuality (so every day is already Straight Pride Day), 3) that they don’t understand that Queer Pride events are about our very right to exist—an act of defiance against those who want us to be invisible or dead—not merely our right to party, 4) that no one is is stopping them from organizing their own straight pride events (even though I think they’re redundant)?
This year there is a new wrinkle. Some of my less-than-affirming relatives have (after trotting out the thoughts and prayers nonsense) urged me not to go to Pride, because they don’t want me to get hurt if something happens. They make these comments completely oblivious to the fact that the anti-gay memes they share online every day, the anti-gay initiative for which they signed the petition to place on the ballot, the angry calls they say they make to their congressperson after learning of an anti-discrimination law under consideration, and all the rest contributes to the atmosphere of hate that drives people to violence against queers.
And yes, I’ve also gotten, even in light of the most recent publicly visible horror, a few people asking me what’s the point of Pride. “You can get married, now. You won. Isn’t that enough?” Marriage equality was one very tiny battle, by comparison to what remains. We live in a world where:
- Religious leaders openly call for our deaths: Christian Pastor Hopes God “Finishes The Job” And Kills Orlando Survivors
- Politician just as openly call for our deaths: After Orlando, Congressman Defends Reading Bible Verse About Gay People Being ‘Worthy Of Death’
- People think that trans children’s use of school bathrooms needs to be policed: Kansas Bill Would Pay Students A $2,500 Bounty To Hunt For Trans People In Bathrooms (and an initiative gathering signatures in my state includes a clause like this!)
- Religious leaders who claim to preach god’s love think nothing of posting nasty anti-gay messages on their church signs: Vandalized: Georgia Church Sign That Says ‘Satan Made Gays & Transgender’ — and when a local lesbian Christian tried to help clean up the vandalism, the pastor who insists on leaving ht “Satan made gays & transgender” doubled down, insisting the lesbian is not a Christian and that she’s going to hell.
- Because people still think that even acknowledging our existence is “too much”: Boosie Badazz Thinks There’s Too Much Gay Stuff On TV
That last one is just the tip of the iceberg. It is still really common for people to react to any depiction of a queer person’s life as a queer person with, “Why do you have to show us all the time? Why can’t you just be who you are without labeling everything?”
The saddest part of this is that those people don’t think they are being homophobic at all. And they never think about the fact that straight people “shove their sexuality” in everyone else’s face all the time. Have pictures of your spouse, significant other, or children on your desk, wall, or phone’s home screen? Mention your wife or husband in casual conversation? Comment on how hot a particular actor or actress is? 99.9 percent of all movies and TV shows depict opposite sex couples flirting, kissing, and more? Routinely ask about family discounts? Expect that, of course, your spouse will be included in the company health insurance plan? Invite us to your wedding or your kid’s straight wedding? Show us pictures of yours or your kid’s straight wedding? Ever use the phrase “no homo”?
Since we get accused of shoving our sexuality in your face if we merely casually mention the existence of our significant other, we get to count all of those things as you shoving your sexuality in our faces.
Why do we need Pride?
- We need Pride because people are still trying to kill us.
- We need Pride because religious leaders are still cheering on the people who kill us.
- We need Pride because people accuse us of “stealing the tragedy” when 49 of us are murdered in a gay night club on a busy Saturday night during Pride month.
- We need Pride because people still target gender non-conforming children in schools, and now adults aren’t just making excuses for the bullying, they want to pay the bullies bounties for doing it!
- We need Pride because it’s still legal to fire us just for being gay in 28 states.
- We need Pride because people are more offended at the idea of selling us a wedding cake than they are about 49 of us being gunned down in a single incident.
- We need Pride because people get angry when other people acknowledge our existence.
- We need Pride because people get offended if we mention the gender of our significant other in casual conversation.
- We need Pride because religious parents still kick their queer children out onto the streets just for being gay, and it isn’t considered child neglect or abuse to do so.
- We need Pride because queer kids are born everywhere, not just into families and communities that love and accept them, and they need to know that they aren’t alone.
- We need Pride because the world tries to make us hate ourselves, tries to make us be ashamed to love, and most importantly tries to convince us we are utterly alone.
The only way queers like me have been able to stand up and be ourselves is because other queers before us were brave enough to be out—whether it was staging sip-ins to protest laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly allow two homosexuals be served in the bar, or fighting back when police raided a gay club, or picketing in front of federal buildings, or marching in the first ever Pride event in June 1970. Those of us who can stand up for ourselves now, owe a debt to the sacrifices those earlier generations of queers made. We can’t pay them back directly, so we have to pay it forward. We do that by standing up and being counted and being visible for all of the people (especially kids) who can’t, yet.
We need Pride not because we’ve come so far, but because for many there is still a long, long way to go.