June is notable to many because it marks a month-long celebration of LGBTQ Pride. For most, this means attending vast pride parades, enjoying vibrant spectacles, and ogling half-naked, Greek-God-esque men. At least, that is often the media’s depiction of pride events.
When I was a young gayling far back in 2007, and even before, I was always fascinated by gay pride celebrations because of the media depiction. I, along with other young gay men I knew, were drawn to pride because of the fearless sexualization of other gay men. There was a certain excitement in a provocatively physical public spectacle. For others, pride celebrations were a safe place for us to meet other guys to potentially connect with on an intimate level.
When attending college for my undergraduate degree, I experienced my first pride-week celebration. It involved the usual festivities: a drag show, open-mic poetry night sharing coming out stories, and game sessions- but it also included a considerable amount of educational moments. College pride-week opened my eyes to the deeper meaning behind Pride. I was introduced to Harvey Milk, who I learned was essentially one of the founding voices of the modern LGBTQ-rights movement. I learned about the Stonewall Riots and what they did for LGBTQ liberation. I learned where we came from, understood where we are now, and began to think about our future.
The other day, a gay friend on my Facebook page made a comment stating: “I can’t wait to go to Pride to see all the hot guys.” The comment left me feeling empty because most people view Pride as simply a spectacle. Many don’t acknowledge its roots in history. Pride is about acknowledging the breadth and complexity of what it means to be LGBTQ. This leads to the question: how do we re-claim this aspect of pride?
We must talk about the history more. We must confront comments like the one prior with education. Pride celebrations are safe-spaces for us to be who we are. They also must be safe places for educators to help remind our community where we’ve come from.