Updated: Oct 10, 2019
In case you missed it, June is Pride month. I write that a bit facetiously because it seems like each year the presence of Pride season becomes more visible and apparent. The massive amounts of companies who are showing support for Pride by putting their products in rainbow containers or creating rainbow logos has definitely become a running joke in gay communities.
That said, it is amazing to have this much visibility and support for the LGBTQ+ community no matter if these marketing strategies are in good faith or not, and while I too sometimes need to stifle my inner grandpa wanting to scream “get off my lawn!” when I see another rainbow themed product, I think this huge support of Pride is increasing acceptance for queer people.
One thing that I am noticing however is that we are in what is a seemingly unique point in LGBTQ+ and Pride history where awareness of the queer community is high - through activism and corporate promotions/support, but what it actually is and why it is important isn’t necessarily known by many folks in America. I certainly have had a lot to learn as someone who has been on the path of coming out and full acceptance of who I am for about 10 years now. A LOT of that learning has come in the last couple years since I have moved from just accepting who I am to being PROUD of who I am. I’ve also noticed through discussions with friends and family in my life that while they might not always know about the gay experience, that doesn’t mean they aren’t open to better understanding it.
That is the genesis of this post - I’d like to give a well meaning and simple introduction to a few things that are important to Pride and the LGBTQ experience, specifically for folks that might not be very familiar with the queer world.
So let’s kick this off by unpacking Pride month. It is in June in honor of the Stonewall riots which happened in late June of 1969. The specifics of what actually happened at Stonewall seem to vary depending on the source, but the most common events reported include a group of LGBTQ+ folks starting a riot outside of a bar called the Stonewall Inn protesting a police raid of the bar which was very common during that time. If you want to learn more about some of the facts and myths associated with the Stonewall Riots, I recommend the video below that has interviews with Stonewall participants and LGBTQ+ historians:
I was able to visit the Stonewall Inn last year when my friends and I went to New York Pride. I could dedicate an entire post about how special that trip was, but the Stonewall Inn was definitely a highlight. Even though it is extremely small and pretty run down (it wasn’t even that great in the 60s according to folks interviewed in that video above), it was very cool to see in person. Here’s a pic of us out front where we unfortunately were unable to get a shot without a random street performer in the frame. :)
Fun fact: This will be the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots!
At the time of Stonewall, homosexuality was considered a mental health disorder in both men and women. There were little to no protections for queer individuals and very few establishments welcomed openly gay people. It was the events of Stonewall along with many other pro-LGBT demonstrations that led activists to establish the gay pride movement first with parades in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City to commemorate the one year anniversary of Stonewall, but now Pride basically refers to any activity that takes a stance against discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community in order to promote dignity, equal rights, and the self acceptance of queer people.
The acronym above stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. The + is there to signify that there are even more identities and sexual orientations that don’t fall under those initial categories like intersex or asexual. I realize it can look a bit like spilled alphabet soup, but the idea is that we want all folks who are marginalized in sexual orientation or gender identity to be named, heard and included in our community.
Gender Identity vs Sexual Orientation
It is very common to get these two confused, and that is pretty understandable given that we include all queer people in the community. The difference to be aware of is that being gay or straight deals with one’s sexual orientation or more specifically who they are attracted to, while gender identity has to do with how the person sees themselves. For example, a transgender man can either be attracted to men (meaning his sexual orientation would also be gay), or attracted to women (meaning he would have a heterosexual orientation), but he would still be part of the LGBTQ+ community no matter what his sexual orientation was because of his gender identity.
I’m a gay man so my sexual orientation is homosexual and my gender identity would be cisgender because I was born a man. I am part of the LGBTQ+ community because of my sexual orientation while also being a cisgendered person.
I honestly am only barely scratching the surface of learning about the transgender experience myself so while I’m hesitant to write too much, I do think working to support and be an ally for transgender rights is very important. On that note, it took me a while to learn that the flag that represents transgender rights is pink and blue even after seeing the coloring on a number of pride items the last couple years.
I look forward to learning more about the lives of transgendered folks and do my part to create space for them to live authentically, and I think a great place to start is to make that distinction between Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation known by the BraveNewLove community.
If any of this has been new information or helpful to you, thank you for taking the time to read through it. I want to be very clear that this is really just the basic info, but should be sturdy building blocks for future discussions/discovery about Pride and the LGBTQ+ community.
So what could future discussions/discovery for a cis straight ally (aka born to the gender you identify to be, heterosexual, friend of the LGBTQ+ community) look like? Are they welcome at Pride events during the month of June and beyond? I believe the answer is a definite YES! My life experience has led me to believe that we learn more about the world through a better understanding of those who are different than us. If you want to be an LGBTQ+ ally - please, please, please be one. Approach conversations with respect, but don’t let the worry of always needing to say the right thing stop you from reaching out and creating positive connections.
I have seen a number of articles and rhetoric on the inter webs from the LGBTQ+ community that aren’t necessarily as welcoming, or like this article, have some stipulations for straight allies who would like to be supportive of Pride. A very recent example includes reactions from the gay community towards Taylor Swift's new song called You Need to Calm Down and the music video that goes along with it:
The charge against the video and song is that Taylor, as a cisgendered straight white woman is taking the spotlight from and exploiting the LGBTQ+ community during pride to make $$$. The gays against it are basically like "You can't sit here," and are skeptical of what seems like sudden outward support for the LGBTQ+ community from Taylor.
I realize that some of this protectionist nature is a defense against previous issues and problems that folks in the queer community have faced at the hands of heterosexual or heteronormative individuals. I also think that welcoming good faith (that’s the imperative qualifier here) interest and support from allies only makes the world a safer and more accepting place for our community.
I believe Taylor's song represents a great example of how allies can help LGBTQ+ folks by using their voice and sphere of influence to change hearts and minds about queer people. Pulling an example from my last post, she helps break down the Us vs Them mindset that any of her supporters might have towards LGBTQ+ people by displaying genuine friendships she has with folks in our community. Even better, she presents a call to action for her fans to sign her petition to get the Senate to vote on the Equality Act which was passed recently by the House of Representatives and would protect LGBTQ+ people from being fired from their job solely for being gay. This is a fantastic example of how someone can start being an ally to our community whether they have been a vocal supporter in the past or not.
If you are LGBTQ+, I realize that we have our own various scars and unique traumas from growing up in this heterosexual world and I don’t want to minimize that at all, but I do want to challenge you to accept the support of our straight allies and commit to helping them better understand our experience when needed. Mistakes might be made sometimes, but that can only be expected when folks are learning about a foreign world.
allow for some grace &
offer corrections as needed.
It's a work in progress but we get better with practice so just rinse and repeat as you strengthen and grow your BraveNewLove for your authentic self and the world around you.