June, in many places around the world, is LGBTQ Pride Month. It’s a month marked by public celebrations, demonstrations and acts of solidarity for those of us in the LGBTQ community. It’s often the first time a newly out person feels part of a community, feels included in something celebratory and fun, in contrast to the often difficult and shame-ridden process of coming out.
I remember very clearly my first Pride celebration, five years ago at Washington DC Pride. I remember not being able to wipe the grin off my face. I was so excited, so exhilarated, to see all of these people who were like me, and made up the community I had newly joined. After coming out during my time at a small liberal arts college, being at a party with what seemed like hundreds of other queer women was almost too much to handle. It felt so good.
While in the US, most of us take our ability to host Pride parades and festivals in relative peace for granted, not everyone around the world has that privilege. In many places, Pride parades are hostile events, are banned by the government, or end in violence toward people in the LGBTQ community.
Moscow, for example, had it’s Pride parade officially cancelled by the government there. About three dozen activists tried to host the parade anyway, including a few notable US activists who had joined in (including Lt. Dan Choi). The parade was cut short by police, and ended in some physical attacks toward the protestors, as you can see in this video by Euronews.
Even in countries where Pride parades are allowed to happen peacefully, they sometimes highlight tensions from within the queer community. Some have problems with Pride because it in many places has become very commercialized, with more floats from banks, tanning salons, gyms and energy drinks than political or activist groups. Others critique the drinking-centered nature of the celebrations.
While Pride is an opportunity to celebrate our community, we’re by no means a monolith that always agrees or gets along. I for one am still glad these celebrations continue, even if just simply for all of those baby dykes and queers who are just coming out, like I was five years ago, and who feel that initial exhilaration of realizing how many people out there are just like them for the very first time.
Happy Pride Month!