This is part 2 of a post. Here is the first part.
So what needs to change about Pride because of what happened in Orlando? Or I think I’d rather ask it this way: was the LGBTQ community as well prepared as it could have been to deal with such a devastating attack on queer people? I’m not sure we were.
Pride is an opportunity for the community to celebrate while remembering the history of the struggle for full equality. But it can be much more than that, and I believe it needs to be. It has to be a yearly crash-course and exercise at becoming a stronger and better community. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and gender nonconforming members of the community need to leave their Pride experience stronger and more capable individually as well as collectively to keep fighting for comprehensive, full equality. Here are the things I believe Pride needs to be to accomplish that goal:
A clear visible LGBTQIA+identity with an emphasis on inclusion
By the end of June every year, every single gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, gender and identity nonconforming person ought to have had an experience where there was never any doubt that they were welcome and included. We ought to be bending over backwards to make that happen in every way possible. The notion of “belonging regardless of our differences” is a must and ought to be the driving force behind Pride. Because what that does is strengthen everyone’s individual sense of self and reinforce the base concept of being one huge community full of diversity. Recognizing and embracing our difference makes us stronger, deeper and a more stable community.
How we accomplish that goal s the hard part. Our culture thrives best by focusing on sameness and allowing the visibility of some to rise while others become less visible. Life can be one big high school prom. The solution is for any Pride organizers to be continually asking, are we truly including everyone? And not only are we including everyone in the Pride events and experience, but is a diverse group of people doing the planning, organization, fundraising, and publicity. And these involvements can’t merely be token participants. There can’t be any lip service to diversity. Without this, no Pride can become a more powerful event for the LGBTQIA+ community.
A safe place
One of the profound realities the Orlando massacre made visible is the degree to which gathering places like gay bars are safe places, and so many people across the country felt so traumatized because that sense of a safe place was so horribly violated. But we need for LGBTQIA+ persons to feel safe in much bigger and broader senses of space and place, and to accomplish that, we need Pride to be a safe place. A safe place gets created when three things exist:
- A person believes they belong and that they are welcome and wanted (what I wrote about earlier).
- There is a stability established through a lack of controversy and drama.
- Actual security is made a primary effort during planning. (Here in Pittsburgh, physical security is a priority and is handled very well.)
A focus on activism and support for each other.
I’m not suggesting that we must take all the fun out of Pride, but I am saying that today and moving forward, we need to refocus Pride efforts towards a focus on activism and support for the entire LGBTQIA+ community.
- How is it OK, for us to allow, year after year to pass without even basic nondiscrimination protections in almost half of the US?
- How is it OK for close to 50% of today’s homeless youth to be LGBTQ?
- How is it OK, that we still have an epidemic of HIV/AIDS decimating our community, and especially hitting trans and persons of color?
- How is it OK for so many trans persons of color to be murdered every year?
I could go on with a list of these questions, but I hope you get my point. “We’re hear, we’re queer, get used to it,” used to be a common chant. But many are used to it and our presence isn’t that controversial anymore. We need to take our visibility and our Pride and harness it towards real change for our diverse community. At one time, simply showing up for a Pride march was progress, but today, we need go much further than that.
If we want to see full equality within society as a whole we, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and are allies need to be the driving force behind these political and cultural changes. There can still be parades and glitter and rainbows, but these aspects of Pride must be coupled to awareness building, education, advocacy and outright activism.