by Michael Raitt -
SGN Contributing Writer
This time of year, around the country and around the world, Gay Pride is being celebrated. The colors of Pride come alive in parades, parties, and get-togethers. The music is loud and there is energy in the air as residents welcome visitors in our celebration of ourselves.
We go to the parade and watch dykes-on-bikes and handsome young men dancing on floats in their scant bathing suits. We watch the naked bicycle riders or leather Daddies parading down 4th Avenue in their harnesses and ass-less chaps and we wonder where they get their courage. Many of us love the dancers and clap loudly for the various groups that are a part of our community. We stand in long lines to get into our favorite establishment to eat and drink. This is all an awful lot of fun - and exciting, I might add.
Pride is much more than these things, however. Pride is about community. When you broaden your vision, there is so much more to see and take pride in.
You see men, women, and youth who work diligently all year 'round to make a difference in the individual and collective lives of a community that, for many years, has been pathologized and marginalized. You see professionals of all kinds - doctors, lawyers, teachers, firefighters, police - who work on behalf of all of us to make a difference in lives whether you are Gay or straight.
Friends and families come together to celebrate their GLBTQ loved ones and it is a time where we, as a community, stand in our confidence and take our place in our larger communities. We remind others that being Gay is about who we love and not who we have sex with. Participating in Pride is a statement of acceptance - our friends and families accepting us and GLBTQ adults and youth accepting ourselves.
Pride is also an historic marker. It reflects where our community is at any moment in time. For example, many years ago when Pride celebrations were just starting, only a few brave souls would venture out and march in the parade. Those who did often faced an onslaught of vile hatred (in some parts of the world, this is still true). As time went on, parades got bigger. Later, PFLAG joined parades and we saw that some of our parents and friends supported us. In the late '80s and '90s, we were honoring our loved ones who had died of AIDS through celebration. Attendance in major cities has grown from a handful to hundreds of thousands - all supporting and accepting us. Today, we celebrate marriage and we are on the verge of historic cultural changes as we take our places as equal in this country. Pride highlights our core acceptance of ourselves and punctuates our evolution as individuals and a community in the larger culture.
A lot of people come out to celebrate Pride. Yet, many stay home. Some stay home because even though they are members of the community, they feel left out. Some feel too old and invisible and that Pride is for the 'pretty' younger ones. A few are hurt because they see all the love around them and feel as though love will never be a part of their lives. Men and women in recovery may not go out because they are afraid of being triggered. Finally, a few don't join in because they have not accepted themselves as GLBTQ and they harbor self-hatred.
I never judge anyone for how they feel. People are where they are. What I do know is this, though: We all need a tribe and we all need to belong. Whether we've been out there on a float in a Speedo or living our lives quietly with our pets, every one of us has a role and is important in this celebration. None of us are invisible! We have all played a part in this cultural evolution we call 'Gay rights,' and during Gay Pride, we all take our place.
PRIDE HAS MANY FACES
If you are staying home by choice, I would offer this suggestion: Go find something within our community that you do have pride in. Focus on something that is valuable to you, and find it where you look. Look through the lens of strength and sacrifice, of the beauty of youth and the grandeur of wisdom that life experience brings, or how the fight for LGBTQ rights has changed over the years. Take a moment to look at the faces of the people you see and marvel in the wonder of their stories - every single one of us has a story and a struggle! Realize that in numbers, we let others in less-accepting parts of the world know they are not alone. From the oldest to the youngest, when we come out and celebrate and take our place, we are sending an important message to all - we can be proud to be GLBTQ.
No matter who you are, be happy for every person out during Pride. They are either taking pride in themselves or are proud of someone they love. Participate any way you can! Make visitors from out of town feel welcome as they celebrate with us. This is a great, historic moment and we've all contributed to it. We deserve to participate in celebrating our accomplishments and show our pride in who we are, from where we've come, and where we are going!
Wishing you all the very best over Pride. Have fun! Be safe!! Happy Pride 2013!!!
Michael Raitt, M.A., L.M.H.C., is a therapist who writes a bimonthly column in SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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