Coming back from Indy Pride, Indianapolis’ LGBT pride festival, June 9, I find myself with more overwhelming pride in my identity than I ever have. But, of course, I suppose that’s the point.
Indy Pride is the largest gathering of LGBT people in Indiana, and one of the largest in the Midwest, according to the Indy Pride website.
In essence, it is an entire day set aside to be proud of the person you are, gay or not.
However, some politicians have believed otherwise. For instance in 2015, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Arkansas, said gay pride parades hold one purpose — to “mock Christians.”
This accusation could not possibly be further from the meaning of gay pride parades. They started as a fight against inequality and police brutality and have evolved to one of the biggest celebrations of personal identity and love for others.
The first gay pride parade occurred June 28, 1970, in Greenwich Village in New York City, responding to Stonewall Riots that began exactly one year prior. These riots were sparked by a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in the area. It was followed by six days of protests by bar patrons and neighborhood residents to fight back against the persisting persecution of members of the LGBT community.
Resulting from these riots, June has become Pride Month. Likewise, we have continued the tradition of taking to the streets for reasons of pride in identity. However, the meaning of these parades has shifted. Where they once started as demands for equality, acceptance and civil rights, they have now become celebrations of infinite proportions to recognize the distance that the LGBT community has come.
A gay pride festival is held once a year in any given city where there exists no backlash, hate, persecution or dismay for the LGBT community. This isn’t to say that those people who are prejudiced toward the community are shut up, silent in their homes, but the overwhelming disproportion of hate to love that is expressed during that day — in the streets and in the eyes of those who need it — is enough to make it more than easy to ignore them.
Today, gay pride organizations host not only parades to celebrate how far we have come, but continue to make it a larger celebration with drag shows and musical concerts. These organizations typically provide free HIV testing. Although it may seem like some sort of invitation-only type of event, this is all done with open arms to include all people, regardless of sexuality or gender identification. The point is to celebrate every individual’s identity, while recognizing that this freedom to do so is still relatively new.
The entire month of June is dedicated to celebrations across the country to recognize the distance that we have come. It is dedicated to changing the status quo so that the next generation of children grow up accepting their identity with no question, no regret and no self-hatred — so that kids know the word “gay” outside the context of a mere insult like I did.
Let’s join hands all month, put on our rainbow-striped suspenders and march in the streets in our local gay pride festivals. Gay or not, this is an opportunity for everyone to show support for equality, civil rights, pride and, ultimately, love.
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