June is LGBTQ Pride Month. For the entire month, parades and festivals across the United States will be held honoring the struggle LGBT people have faced throughout history and to push for more progress. But the month brings with it conflicting feelings in myself. Part of me really wants to celebrate and go to one of these festivals that seem designed to acknowledge part of my identity where I’ll be surrounded by others like me so I won’t have to deal with fear or shame. Another says these festivals are really ironic and way over the top, that I want no part of the LGBT community. So because it’s pride month, I’m going to be sharing some of the flaws I see in having a pride month and some of what pride means to me.
First, I want to make clear I’m not attempting to trample on anyone’s beliefs; I respect everybody’s choice to celebrate however they choose. That being said, I’ve always found LGBT “pride” to be completely ridiculous and over the top. Personally, I don’t find anything that happens at pride festivals to be representative of who I am and it feeds heavily off of and into stereotypes. There’s already a ton of stereotypes that the gay community is loud, flamboyant, and partying among other things. So these festivals decide to be all of those things? I can’t really tell if that’s helping or hurting, I know it discourages me from associating with it at all. All I see of pride parades and floats and stands is rainbows, drag queens, and lots of costumes. In other words, it seems very fake and I don’t feel represented in that at all. That’s not necessarily a problem since I don’t need a pride month or parade to celebrate my identity, but still. They’re very superficial and maybe I can’t speak until I’ve gone to one, but I keep getting discouraged on account of all the above. I would just like to know in what way is any of that necessary? How does any of that show gay pride? Is that really what being gay is? Am I not gay enough? I don’t know, it just appears to be enormously showy and fake.
I also want to talk real quick about the whole notion of a gay pride month. Why on earth is it necessary? Because the LGBT community has been oppressed for so long? I don’t buy it. Giving June the honorary title of gay pride month does nothing to commemorate the history of gay people, not that there is a solid history. I’ve heard of one incident and that’s it, I can hardly believe there’s enough source material to build an entire month of “commemoration” out of. Not that these festivals in any way actually talk about the history. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been. Maybe there are a ton of booths to tell me all about the history of “my people,” but that doesn’t really help out much when all that gets attention is parade floats. Something needs to change with the whole notion of a month dedicated to anything as abstract as “gay pride.” I’ll just come out and say it clearly, too: I don’t care about the history of gay people. I really don’t care about past oppression or any “martyrs” that may or may not exist. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.
Just in an attempt to balance out my negative feelings towards pride month, let me share some aspects I can respect about it. I do believe that underneath the superficiality, there is a lot of acceptance. When everyone is dressed in 2 lbs. of make-up and has nothing but jock straps on, nobody is really paying attention to body type, race, age, or anything else. It’s all about the party, which I suppose is why it’s so popular. It does invite anyone to come and forget who they are for just a bit and have some fun, if that’s the kind of fun you like to have. I also appreciate that at the very least there’s SOMETHING out there acknowledging the gay population. At least we exist in some form or another. I also really like the idea of gathering with like-minded people. I know in my own life I’ve felt like I was the only one around me who was gay and there’s no hope of me ever finding another person like me, much less one who I could be remotely romantically compatible with. Having a large gathering of gay people provides an opportunity to congregate and potentially meet someone, which is something I don’t always feel like I can do. So while gay pride month isn’t what I want it to be, I can appreciate that it’s there (hopefully to be revised as time passes).
But what does pride actually mean to me? Aside from the sinful definition of pride, I think pride can be a good thing, like self-confidence. For the longest time, my greatest fear as someone finding out I had homosexual desires and I spent a lot of my time covering up any slight indication I might be gay. Not staring too long at a boy, talking about girls, deleting internet search histories, always having my phone nearby and my laptop locked, going to and talking about church, talking about gay people like I wasn’t apart of them, telling myself I was just envious of other guys or wanted a close male friend to go along with all my female friends, even reasoning to myself I wouldn’t have to ever come out if I could just keep pretending. The list goes on, but my pride lies in the fact that I’m not broken. Being gay doesn’t hurt me anymore. Now when I talk about people I’m romantically interested in, I can say ‘he’ instead of ‘she.’ I can openly talk about my sexuality as purely a sexuality, not as my sole defining feature. Pride to me is about being able to recognize beauty in other people in a way few others can. A lot of my pride comes from the unwavering acceptance and support from my friends and family who I feel closer to now. I feel I can be honest and free with people in a way I never could before. Pride is simply the absence of fear now. It’s being able to say how hot Clay Jenkins is from 13 Reasons Why without any sideways glances. It’s also being able to say how hot Hannah Baker is without having to prove myself as gay or straight. My pride looks like me living my day to day life and being able to say, “What you see is who I am.” My pride is being able to openly talk to people who have questions for me about my sexuality without shame. It’s being able to audibly say “I’m gay” to anyone I want. To be perfectly honest, it is a little bit about feeling special, like I have something not many others do. I also have pride in not letting my sexuality rule me, not letting it dictate my beliefs and convictions. It means being open-minded to all views regardless of who they come from. No hiding. It’s not exuberant displays announcing my sexuality, it’s saying that my sexuality is entirely unimportant to the world because it’s all personal to me. I don’t need anything other than what I have now, minus the fear and judgment. That’s my pride.
I wish pride reflected more of that. Right now I can’t relate much to pride month or the gay community for that matter, and that bums me out. I am who I am and I don’t make a show out of it, that’s the way it should be. Because of my sexuality, I feel more love than I ever felt before for people of all sexualities, genders, races, religions, etc. If I’m going to be honest, and trust me, I am, my spirituality is the only place I’ve been “suffering.” I love the church and its teachings (for the most part), but it doesn’t have a lot for me in this field so I’m exploring. I’m 20 years old and I don’t want to let the church restrict my information and myself, so I guess you could say it’s in my back pocket. All I know for sure is my pride in myself has helped me find myself and live more authentically, which is all any of us can hope to achieve in the end.