Sunday marks the 43rd annual Pride Parade festivities in many cities throughout the country and, if there has ever been a year to show your pride, it’s this one. We have suffered countless setbacks but in one year, we have never experienced so many victories. It’s a time to reflect upon those moments and celebrate. We celebrate love’s existence, its strength against hate and the beauty that resides in its endurance.
These victories are monumental. No longer will our servicemen and women have to hide who they are while they’re sacrificing everything on the battlefields. The discriminatory law that is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is being challenged in courtrooms across the country and the Obama administration refuses to defend its constitutionality. Legislators in New York, Washington, New Jersey and other states have called for the legalization of same-sex marriage… some have even passed marriage equality laws. Public figures are speaking out in droves for marriage equality and even the president himself has lent his support to the cause. My friends, this has been a very, very good year.
Decades ago, it was commonplace for the police to raid bars that catered to the gay community. Police would round them up, arrest them, publish their names in the local papers as “sexual deviants,” costing many their jobs and livelihoods. When LGBT persons gathered in New York City 43 years ago at the Stonewall Inn, they were met by yet another brutal police raid. This time however they fought back. These brave individuals challenged the police in a violent demonstration in what we now consider the beginning of the gay-rights movement in America. The Stonewall Riots ushered in organized gay rights groups that were determined to fight for their right to exist and they had had enough of being treated as criminals based solely on who they loved.
This moment in history, unknown to most Americans, is why we celebrate our pride every June. These individuals suffered torment and discrimination yet came out on the other end a more organized and empowered segment of society. These men and women deserve our respect. Due to their willingness to stand up and fight against the hatred and bigotry thrown their way, LGBT people today can live their lives openly as productive members of society. Every day, we reap the benefits of their struggle and every day we forget what it was they did for us.
Many may see Pride as a sexually-charged onslaught of glitter and tight shorts but it means so much more than that. It’s a celebration of our political identity, our activism and a moment to remember those we lost to AIDS and senseless violence. It serves as an educational beacon reminding young LGBT teens that life CAN turn out okay and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Pride offers a chance for politicians, businesses and religious organizations to show their support for equality. Pride reminds us that no matter how hard life can be and how lonely being different is, we are not alone. Everywhere around us there is support, friendship and love.
Come Sunday morning, get up, grab a few friends and family members, find a parade in a city near you, get there and celebrate. Celebrate the bravery and commitment of your fellow citizens. Celebrate the victories of this exceptional year. Whether you’re gay, straight, a supporter or otherwise… come celebrate with us. And for those in the LGBT community… remember those who came before you and celebrate knowing who we ARE is made possible because of who they WERE.