PRIDE. Pride is a word that can mean different things to different people. You can take pride in your work, your home, your family, and yourself. For a lot of people taking pride in themselves can be the toughest. Sometimes it seems that despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made, especially over the last 10 years, finding pride in oneself can be elusive and inconsistent. For many people self esteem comes in waves, sometimes you’re riding high on the biggest wave of the ocean, everything is going your way, other times you keep falling off the surf board and retreat to land thinking that you’ll never have the self confidence to try again. For others there are challenging times for sure, but they always seem to land on their feet and walk through life with a never ending confident stride.
People who are LGBTQ face a unique set challenges that can effect our self esteem. Issues ranging from acceptance of family and friends to discrimination. Health and mental health issues not to mention the disproportionate suicide rates among trans and queer youth. Homeless rates among LGBTQ youth are also disproportionate. Depending on who you are the reality of coming out as LGBTQ can be one of the single most stressful times in a persons life. So, if you are able to navigate any of these challenges in life you are brave.
Take coming out for example, we don’t come out just once, we come out all the time. We come out when we meet new people or start a new job and talk with our new co-workers the conversation will most certainly turn to ones spouse or partner. That happened to me recently. I started a new job and had two days of on boarding with another new employee, we were sequestered in a small office belonging to the human resource manager. The HR manager is an older man probably in his late 60’s and uses terms like “golly gee,” “heck,” and “swell.” As we were going over the companies benefits package I mentioned the low insurance rate compared to what my spouse was paying for both of us to be insured. He asked me what my wife did for a living. Of course I polity corrected him and said that my husband is the director of social services for a long term care facility. It seemed that the awkward silence lasted longer than what it actually did, but the on boarding resumed like nothing happened.
There’s always that fear, the fear of the person that you’re interacting with might get insulting or maybe even violent. I didn’t know either of the people that I was in that small office with, so when I “came out” there was a certain amount of awkwardness. Those awkward moments will continue to happen for the rest of my life. Even though we’ve made progress those of us who are LGBTQ will always be living with a certain amount of uncertainty. This uncertainty straight cis gendered people will never have. Straight people never have to think twice when they share with others who they love. They will never have to worry about getting fired from a new job or any job because of their sexuality. They will never have to worry about discrimination. Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are living our truth live with these harsh facts everyday of our lives.
This year is the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, arguably the start of the modern day gay rights movement. The riots led to the start of the first gay pride parades and festivals around the country. To get where we are now the patrons of The Stonewall Inn exploded into a violent protest after the police raided the bar. At the time raids of gay bars were common practice, but finally the people had enough. The riots became so violent that the police hid in The Stonewall Inn, afraid to leave for 45 minutes. The LGBTQ community has been clawing its way up ever since. Those early protesters were not just brave, they were fearless in finding the courage to fight the New York City Police because they were sick of being treated like their lives, their loves, and their dreams didn’t matter. Just this year The City of New York issued a formal apology to the city’s LGBTQ community for the way that community was abused at the hands of the people who were there to serve and protect all citizens.
The cis gendered straight white guys that are organizing “straight pride” events because they feel threatened that their little world is becoming too diverse, those toxic people want nothing more than to feel better about themselves by taking away our power to feel good about ourselves and undermining the achievements of our community and individuals. Don’t let them.
If you’re LGBTQ and still in the closet, if you’re not ready to come out, that doesn’t mean that you are not brave. Just coming to terms with who you are is one of the bravest things you can do, don’t ever feel pressured to come out. If you’re out always remember, just like those first protesters who took on the police during The Stonewall Riots your lives, loves, and dreams do matter.
So, on the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots think of the sacrifices and hardships queer people had to live through everyday, think of those who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Know that with people like Harvey Milk, Martha P. Johnson, Jim Obergefell, just to name a few we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, honor those who came before and know that they would want you to honor yourself, live bravely, love passionately, don’t be afraid of getting your heart broke, dream big and don’t ever let the world dictate what your truth is. And as always dance like no one is watching.
Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 29, 2019 in Washington Park at the Guy Forman amphitheater from 1-9pm.