I wrote a lot about Pride last year, about my perceived failures, and about how hard it was to take pride in myself but how that was changing. Unfortunately, the rest of the past year was marred by even more failure. That feeling of pride and being happy with who I was unfortunatley short lived.
My divorce was finalized, I lost my job, and it took me six months to find a new one. In that period of unemployment depression set in deeper than it had in a long time. It didn’t help that I couldn’t afford all my medication since I didn’t have insurance. As it turns out Abilify is an amazing drug, and no they’re not paying me to say that. Though I wish they would. Depression led to my house becoming a depression nest. My finances took a nosedive. Things got really bad.
It’s been two months since my fresh start. My new job is going awesome, I have a new house, my old one is getting cleaned up for sale, and my sleep schedule has returned to something resembling a functioning individual. I’ll talk more about how things are going in my next blog post, but today I want to focus on Pride, the event.
For some bizarre reason, the Pride for my hometown is held in May instead of during Pride Month like it should be. It also usually happens to be the same weekend as Geekway to the West which is a higher priority for me. There’s also St. Louis PrideFest, which is bigger and probably more impressive, but has its own problems. Instead, my friends and I opt to wait until Tower Grove Pride in St. Louis. It’s a smaller, more indie Pride, and frankly I’m all for that.
This year will be my second Pride, despite being the third to pass since coming out, and I’m looking forward to it way more than I did last year. This year Pride is something I feel like I can truly experience and be a part of. Last year I wore a top that showed off my tattoo and did my nails, but other than that I didn’t have anything to really show off my pride. Since then I’ve acquired socks, shoes, a flag, and various t-shirts. That isn’t to say Pride is just about the material, because it’s not, but there’s something to be said for being able to be out and proud, and that’s much easier to do when you can wear it for all to see. It’s a strangely liberating feeling.
Despite diving into it, the material aspect of Pride bothers me. So many companies spend this month changing their logos to rainbows and paying lip service to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, but so few of them actually mean it. Even some companies that have terrible track records in supporting Anti-LGBT organizations attempt to coopt Pride for a quick buck.
Not all companies are bad about it though. Geekway to the West, for example, sells Pride merchandise with their logo and all of the profits go to a charity directly helping those within the community. This year they’re supporting The Metro Trans Umbrella Group, which is awesome. At the last report I got, they had earned over $300 in profits. Converse also gives a portion of their proceeds from their Pride collection to LGBTQ+ charities. These are the kinds of things that I like to see. Sure, there’s something to be said for there being no ethical consumption under capitalism, but dammit I want my cute pink and blue and rainbow stuff, okay?
Another ethical issue regarding Pride include uniformed police officers being present and participating in Pride, which is one of the many problems with St. Louis PrideFest. For those of you who don’t know, Pride is partially a remembrance of the Stonewall Riots, which happened 50 years ago. Stonewall is precisely why police, particularly those in uniform, are not welcome at Pride. I’m not going to argue that police can’t be LGBT, or that all police are anti-LGBT. That’s obviously not what anyone is actually saying.
I’m very much a believer in the idea that issues regarding race, gender, and sexuality can have some semblance of reform from within broken systems. This is partially the subject of the movie BlacKkKlansman as well as touched on in the TV series Brooklyn 99. However, that being said, the presence of uniformed police officers openly carrying guns is not an image that should be associated with Pride. It’s the antithesis of Pride. Regardless of your beliefs or opinions about the police, given the context of the Stonewall Riots, uniformed officers are a symbol of everything that is holding back the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Lastly, I want to talk about the idea that Pride and being inclusive. Inclusion is a strange ideal to strive for, because what it literally means, and what it stands for, are two very different ideas. The definition being used for inclusion in the case of Pride is usually something about including as many people as possible, but what about police officers? Aren’t we excluding them by saying don’t come to Pride in uniform? What about the idea that Pride needs to be “family friendly” in order to “include” younger kids? What about having kinks on display at Pride?
Pride, as an event, is the very definition of inclusive despite these questions. You are included. Everyone is included. You deciding that the event isn’t right for you is not exclusion. You are excluding yourself, the event is not excluding you. Just because you have concerns about protecting your young children or feeling like having sexuality so on display is exclusionary to asexual people doesn’t make you unwelcome.
Honestly, I can understand the arguments on the side of the fence that Pride isn’t for everyone and is therefore exclusionary. Wanting to take your younger kids to Pride in an attempt to be a good ally and show them that being LGBT is okay and acceptable is a wonderful ideal. Wanting to allow police officers to attend and participate in Pride in uniform sounds inclusive at face value. Police officers are welcome to attend and participate, just not in a uniform that 50 years ago was a sign of the enemy of the community. That is what inclusion means.
Just like with the police and Stonewall, the attempts to sanitize Pride and insist that it needs to be “family friendly” are the antithesis of Pride. 50 years ago being LGBT meant not being family friendly. Being LGBT was something you could only do in seedy bars run by the mafia. LGBT people were only allowed to be who they are behind clothes doors, because it wasn’t safe or respectable to talk about it in public. Pride not only means being proud of who you are, but being proud that we, as a society, have begun to move on from the dated “christian” values that kept LGBT people in the closet for so long.
Sex and sexuality should not be things that we hide from our children. Sex and sexuality are not things that can even be separated from each other. I get that it’s easier to explain to children that two men and two women can love each other and get married just like a man and a woman can, then it is to talk about actual sex, but 50 years ago that wasn’t a conversation that could have happened. It was only 4 years ago that gay marraige became legal in the US.
Rather than treating Pride like something that needs to have aspects of itself hidden from children, and kept in the closet, parents who wish to take their children to Pride should use it as a learning experience. Parents should teach their kids about sex and sexuality beyond the face value of “two people loving each other very much.” Parents should be able to talk about sex with their children, and teach them that it’s not something to be ashamed of. Parents should be able to have the conversation that sex and sexuality also includes the lack there of, and that being asexual is fine as well. Parents should be able to take their children to Pride, and understand that there are going to be some things that they may not understand, and that it’s okay to ask questions.
Sex and sexuality exist, and that existance is not something that should be hidden and kept behind closed doors. Members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and even those that aren’t, have been doing that for far too long. Pride is about opening doors. Pride is about coming out of the closet. Pride is about being happy with who you are as a person, and being happy with who you are as a person includes your gender and sexuality be it sexual or asexual, heterosexual or homosexual, cisgender or transgender.