Depending on who I ask, the annual question of “are you planning to march in Pride this year?” is typically met with an extended eye roll or an annoyed expression that begs the response, “umm…obviously!” While the LGBTQ community is pretty united on most fronts, participation in the iconic march is often a polarizing topic. For me, I can see both sides of this issue, as I’ve spent most of my gay adult life not marching.
While the exact reasons behind the decisions to attend the march are as diverse as the LGBTQ community itself, a common underlying theme is the general public’s misunderstanding of the objective of Pride. Similar to other commercialized events, Pride has found its symbolism diluted by, as a past article in Pride.com put it, “…capitalistic machines with arms made of liquor, underwear and rainbow goods.”
Though this commercialization of the annual celebration is apparent – in the same way beer is for St. Patrick’s Day – it only reflects a small portion of a bigger, continuously evolving picture that is more rich in historical and cultural significance than can be seen on one summer’s day in the streets. We need to reflect on the shades of Pride’s story that aren’t as flamboyantly seen or heard, like how Pride began in the first place. On the last Saturday in June 1969, police officers violently raided the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village of New York City, simply because it had become a safe haven for the LGBTQ community.
Fed up after decades of having to endure these senseless acts of violence and intimidation, the patrons held an uprising. In their defiance, the community demanded to be heard. But more importantly, even if they weren’t ever going to be heard, they sought to make themselves seen in ways that could no longer be ignored. As a result, a movement was born.
While Pride holds historical and cultural significance, that in and of itself isn’t enough to make an LGBTQ person want to march in Pride, much in the same way you can’t you expect all liberals to attend a Black Lives Matter march or an anti-Trump rally, even if their beliefs are aligned to these events’ goals. Like I mentioned earlier, the exact reasons for someone marching or not marching are too diverse to accurately describe, which leaves me reflecting on the reasons I march.
Based on my upbringing, the idea of marching in Pride wasn’t something that ever made it onto a loosely scribbled to-do list, much less a bucket list.
I was raised a product of a very traditional, parochial school system and grew up in the more rural suburbs of Sacramento during the ‘80s and ‘90s. A sign of those times is the fact that Ellen DeGeneres, who today makes jokes about her being a lesbian, didn’t even come out of the closet until I was in high school – a landmark event in my life as it inspired me to come out to my own family that very same night.
Though coming out allowed me to begin living an authentic life, the reality of being out was something totally different. After years of hiding my authentic self because of fear of judgment and persecution, certain “first time” behaviors, like public displays of affection with a partner, brought me face-to-face with the reality that coming out and self-acceptance are two entirely different things.
Through years of trial-and-error relationships, I eventually got over the fear. Ultimately, I realized you shouldn’t allow the judgements of others to steal your life moments. No law or person should hold that kind of authority or influence over your happiness.
Armed with this mind-blowing perspective, I then found myself ready for marriage. That same year, my now husband and I marched in Pride for the first time with our best friends – my straight sister and his straight brother – beside us, in San Francisco.
As we rounded that first corner onto Market Street amidst the raucous roars of applause, I was suddenly overcome with a wave of emotion in recognition of the personal and historical story we were marching away from. Indeed, I felt pride. But, more than anything, I felt relief in knowing that for the first time in my life, I finally stopped hiding.
It is true that Pride has been commercialized, as corporations want to cash in on this movement, but rainbow Doritos does not and should not erase how meaningful this march is to so many people. I march to show pride in who I am, and I invite everyone to come. Family, friends and members of the USF LGBTQ community, if you’d like to march with me and USF’s LGBTQ Faculty/Staff Caucus Pride parade contingent on June 23, please sign up here.
Featured Photo: The Pride March has been going on in San Francisco for decades and its importance should not be understated. RealCereal / Flickr