More than a Colorful Parade: LGBTQ+ pride should be about political action

Ava Sailey

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When I was nine years old, I sat in a stiff leather chair and told my waiting mother, in a shaking voice, that I like girls. I didn’t feel brave at that time. I was making a statement in response to getting in trouble.

Now that I’m older, I feel brave just leaving the house in the morning.

Women, like me, are contradictions. Presenting to a room of middle schoolers felt like being surrounded by wolves, and for what? Because they were laughing at me, with my unshaven legs, buttoned up shirt, and men’s khaki shorts? Because there is a certain degree of humor to the lesbian identity? Or is it because they want to take men’s clothing seriously, but cannot find their maturity when a woman is wearing them? These questions about the place of a LGBTQ+ individual in today’s world open up a myriad of topics that show how gay identity and rights have evolved in the last few decades.

I hear the internet talk about the gay agenda, how the gays are corrupting children through cartoons about rats, and act as though acceptance is turning “good people” into sex-crazed freaks. 50 years ago, people, like me, rioted against police abuse and rape of the LGBTQ+ community. It has been 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, and I still get called slurs at school. Even with the progress seen in today’s society, there is still much more progress to be made in regards to the treatment of LGBTQ+ youth.

For LGBTQ+ people, now and throughout history, their reality has been harsh. The statistics on rape, abuse, and suicide for LGBTQ+ teenagers isn’t something to just nod thoughtfully at. Every school in the country should be terrified. 22 million people died in the AIDS crisis, and a majority of victims in North America were gay and bisexual men, along with transgender women. Gay people have been fighting for literal decades for the right to not be killed by governmental negligence. Crises like this one can be prevented with government funding and investments in education, and people should speak out to gain the support of people to stop these crises.

To many young people, being gay or trans is a joke. Their friends are “gay” if they love their mom, and they identify as an “apache attack helicopter” on surveys. It all plays out as harmless immaturity. It’s all a joke, until my best friend had his life threatened for being gay. These beliefs aren’t just instilled by boy culture at school; homophobia starts at home. These jokes can make kids feel uncomfortable and threatened in their own schools. Many people who hold conservative republican views tell their children the exact comments they make at school, that being gay is a sin, that it is, in some way, wrong to be gay or trans. These hurtful comments cement the threats that many LGBTQ+ youth feel in their homes, schools, and society.

Since gay marriage has been legalized, the majority has started to ignore that LGBTQ+ people are still a highly volatile minority. We’ve had to fight tooth and nail for every protection and right, but there’s still politicians fighting harder to keep us suppressed. In May of 2019 alone, four transgender women have been murdered. Religious freedom bills started out as a reason to not give cake to gay weddings, but have recently led to LGBTQ+ people being denied housing. The current administration has regressed women’s rights, and gay rights are already being targeted. Adoption rights for gay families are being restricted. It should make more people angry.

Pride started as a protest for the freedom to be as we are. In today’s world, pride has ticket sales and merchandise at Target. The heritage of pride is being lost every single year. Pride festivals should be protests again. There should be no float for the police, no signs with logos on them, and no admission costs. As long as gay people live in fear, pride needs to send the message it was built to send. Gay people are here, they’re loud, they’re mad, and they are never going away.

There will be no liberation until the trans life expectancy raises from 35. There will be no liberation until lesbian families live without fear for their children’s safety. There will be no liberation until bisexual people are no longer abused. There’s no middle ground for LGBTQ+ lives. Instead of going on a heavy handed rant about not “getting” homophobia, I want straight people to start protecting us. When somebody says something bigoted, stop letting it happen.

I do not feel safe at school, and I refuse to compromise my identity for the comfort of homophobes. I am a lesbian, and I refuse to stop talking about it. Power starts with pride in the unchangeable parts of oneself. I’m not asking for everybody to march in the parade. I just want more people to know the truth. Being gay or trans isn’t a choice. But if I had to choose, I would be gay. Without a shadow of a doubt, I know this is who I am and how I’m supposed to be. It’s up to the rest of the world to feel the same way.

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