In cities across the world, people are celebrating, marching and reveling in what is called “Pride” festivities and parades this weekend. Still, a whole separate part of the population sits back, confused, some even offended by what the Greek Orthodox bishop in Thessaloniki called an “expression of perversion.” I don’t expect everyone to understand what the feeling is like to be “out of the closet.” All I can tell you is that it’s a horrible place to be when you are inside there.
I also don’t expect people to understand what it’s like to be told to your face “we don’t rent to people like you” when looking for an apartment, or “we don’t employ fags.” I also don’t expect people who haven’t been beaten up for being who they are, to understand what it’s like being kicked to the ground, while being called a “fucking homo.” I also don’t expect people who haven’t received hate mail in the name of Christianity to know what it’s like reading that you need an exorcism or that you are evil incarnate– just for being born the way you are.
Most people who haven’t lived it, won’t understand it. And I don’t expect them to.
Pride festivities take place every year around this time to mark an important anniversary in U.S. history. It was 46 years ago this weekend when a series of riots took place by members of the gay community in New York City who were the subject of constant abuse and torture by the police department.
New York gays lived in fear in the 1960s— the United States had a legal system in place that directly targeted homosexuals— much like it did people of color and others who were “different” from the establishment. Homosexuality was criminalized and society’s response was to establish an educational and a legal system to de-gay people and to keep homosexuals marginalized, and living in fear.
Police raids on bars where gay people frequented were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. Tensions between the NYPD and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later.
Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested and the modern gay rights movement was officially underway.
So why pride? Because less than a half century after it was criminal for people to express themselves openly in society, today— society is changing. Pride is more than a celebration of “being gay”. It is a celebration that people are becoming more free to be themselves, to express themselves, to love whoever they want to love and no government or law can target them as criminals.
Many of my “straight” friends are marching or participating in Gay Pride festivities today in Chicago— in support and solidarity of their gay and lesbian friends and family. One friend— a father and grandfather told me “This is about pride in my society for finally realizing what humanity is. Pride is just as much for heterosexuals as it is for gays. We should all be proud that so much has changed in a half century.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Happy Pride everyone. Yes, we should all be proud of how much society has advanced and people are free to express themselves. It is the American way, after all, isn’t it? It’s why this country was founded. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness— for all people, not just the ones you like, or the ones who are like you. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all— even the different ones.