By: Encina Roh, Peak Associate
For many of us in the LGBTQ2+ community, Pride is the one event where we can show our identities freely without fear of persecution. Normally, I look around before I hold a girl’s hand, shoulder-checking all my blind spots for people who might react poorly. Many of my friends refuse to use public bathrooms because they’ve been slurred at or attacked. Public spaces are not as safe for us as they are for others.
When I first came out in my last year of high school, I came out with fear. Fear that I would be rejected by my friends and peers. Fear that the administration at my private Christian school might revoke my attendance. Fear that the conservative community around us would treat me and my family differently.
Despite attending high school with a considerable number of other LGBTQ2+ students, I was the only one who came out. I was the only one certain enough that my family would not disown me and kick me out. Even to this day, the tremendous pride I have in my identity is not divested from the sobering knowledge that I have to live cautiously because I am gay.
Last July, when I held hands with a girl at Stanley Park, a man walked by us and loudly called out “Faggots!” while flipping us off. At that moment, I remembered that homophobes have pride, too.
Can you see now why the LGBT+ community needs Pride? And why it needs to remain a safe space for us?
I don’t have an issue with straight people attending Pride. But I have an issue with those outside of the community who don’t know that it’s not a party for their consumption or an excuse to doll up, kiss their straight friends for shock value on social media, and get blackout drunk on the weekend. I have an issue with straight people temporarily partaking in our celebration for a few hours in an entire year while leaving us to carry the burdens of homophobia and transphobia for the rest of it. After all, it’s easier to share our happiness than our reality.
I wonder if the straight people making a festivity out of Pride remember the LGBTQ2+ community in Chechnya, massacred in waves of “anti-gay purges” by the government. I wonder if, amidst the confetti, bikinis, and drinking, they are also aware of the fact we stand in solidarity with those who cannot show pride and party it up because being in the closet is safer than being out. I wonder if the straight people lining up to take photos with drag queens show the same enthusiasm and support for trans* individuals who continue to struggle for safe access to public bathrooms.
I wonder: do they tell others off for using slurs or homophobic jokes? Or do they just laugh along because our existence is only worthy of their attention in the form of parties, and is just inconvenient otherwise?
Most of all, I wonder if the straight people posting pictures of themselves at Pride really know the bloodstained history of our community: Stonewall, a literal riot for the right to exist, a struggle that extends into the present.
Pride is a historical movement rooted in our community’s resistance against slaughter, the “corrective” rape of lesbians by men, the chemical castration and abuse of gay men, and the brutalization of trans* individuals. It’s a fight against conversion therapy, still legal in every city in B.C. except Vancouver. It’s a fight against the 73 countries in which our identity is still illegal. A fight to obtain the rights that cisgendered and heterosexual individuals do not think twice about even though but we have to continue proving (begging) to the world that we deserve them.
So straight, cisgendered people: go to Pride. But understand our frustration, our history, and our struggle. Love our community the way you love the glitz and glamour of our parades and shows.
And remember, Pride is not just about you having a fun time. It’s a tribute to the resilience and courage of the LGBTQ2+ community.