The Meaning of Pride

If you happened to be in Washington, DC, this weekend, you may have noticed crowds of brightly-colored people, lots of noise, and a whole bunch of rainbow flags.  For Washington DC, June 9th and 10th was Pride, and the capitol’s LGBTQ community—and its allies—was out in force.  Kicking off with a fantastic parade at Dupont Circle and proceeding with other activities, including a festival and an after-party, Pride was the ultimate opportunity for the LBGTQ community in DC to get out there and strut their stuff.

And really, they strutted like it was their job.  It was quite impressive.

There are a couple of reasons why I firmly believe that pride festivities are important—not just for the LGBTQ community, though I’m going to focus mainly on them, but for minorities in general.  Realistically, the government has been unwilling to sanction something like LGBTQ history month—trying to incorporate it in schools led to a backlash out in California last year.  So for individual communities to be able to demonstrate their pride is particularly important, and pride festivals and parades offer that opportunity.

1)      Like other minority groups, those who identify as LGBTQ deserve or even need an opportunity to be recognized not only as a minority group but as a community.  For example, in the DC parade there were many voluntary associations, including Different Drummers, an all-gay marching band, and several others, that came out to be noticed and to show their pride.  These have evolved from a sense of shared identity that deserves to be recognized.

2)      The LBGTQ community represents a highly misunderstood and alienated minority.  As a sexual minority, as opposed to a racial minority, they are subjected to the prejudices that so often surround the general discourse about sex and sexuality in the United States (and indeed, in most parts of the world).  For this reason, it is particularly important that their presence and their pride be put on display in a way that allows or even forces those who would otherwise dismiss the validity of their experiences to notice them, and Pride provides a forum for this

3)      UNLIKE other minority groups, the LGBTQ community is often faced with messages about how wrong their experiences are, again because of those same heteronormative and sex-shaming institutions.  Pride offers the opportunity for the LGBTQ community to reach out to those struggling and proclaim that it is okay—it is okay to feel how you feel an to love whomever and however you love.

There are other reasons, of course, but those are the main ones.

Of course, not EVERYONE likes the idea of Pride.  At Capitol Pride, there were people with megaphones screaming about the need for the sinners to repent so that they could get into heaven.  And across the pond in Russia, Moscow authorities have just instituted a ban on gay pride events—not just for the time being, but for the next hundred years.

Human Rights First, an organization similar to the Human Rights Campaign, has already issued an official statement condemning this action and pointing out that though the government may try to stand in the way of open acceptance and open discourse about LGBTQ identity, Russian society is evolving faster than their government can control.

If anything, all this is going to do is incentivize the LGBTQ community in Russia to fight back even harder, to protest and rally and otherwise scream until they are heard.  I could give you countless literary examples (see: Frindle  by Andrew Clements or J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) of this exact phenomenon: the more an authority tries to clamp down on an idea, the more society wants to explore it, and the harder it becomes to keep it quiet.

So DC, congrats on a fantastic Pride weekend.  To Different Drummers, you were awesome. And to everyone trying to silence the LGBTQ community, best of luck to you: you can’t stop society from progressing naturally, and you can’t stop people from falling in love.

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~ by Randi Saunders on June 12, 2012.

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