Language warning: I use “queer” as a reflection of my own identity — this is a personal piece and not designed to force the term onto anyone in the LGBT community not comfortable with using it for themselves.
A few weeks ago, I participated in the incredible Qscholars Undergraduate Conference at UCLA, giving a keynote about my research into depictions of bisexuality in American musicals and more broad media representation of bisexuality.
This quarter, I also completed seventy pages of research, including seven hours of transcriptions, on a Field Study focusing on Queer Playwrights and their intersection of identity and creative output, and what kind of support can be mined to help upcoming queer artists. I also wrote the book and lyrics to a short musical about stereotypes surrounding the supposed promiscuity and indecision of bisexual people. 75% of what I do in academia and arts is think, discuss, and challenge the notion of what being queer is, and how we can treat ourselves more healthily in a toxic society, and yet I am still afraid to be out sometimes.
I didn’t go to LA pride a few days ago, making the excuse that it would be too much to deal with traffic and tightened security. In reality, I was frightened of celebrating with my community. Having just gotten word of the tragic Orlando Massacre I was afraid of attending an event that, at its core, is designed to broadcast to the rest of the world that we do not fear the consequences of being ourselves. Unfortunately, once I heard that a man had been arrested in Santa Monica carrying explosives and various other weapons, I felt that my internalized terror was warranted. My own pride had been compromised.
I first attended Pride at 15, in New York City. I was completely overwhelmed, by the crowd, the humidity, the noise pollution, and the hyper saturation on the streets. I attended with my dad, feeling like I was dragging him along, but really I believe I was more uncomfortable in the NYC heat than he was, snapping pictures and turning to me with exclamations of surprise and delight every time a new float paraded past. I had only been out for a year, and though I am not and never have been at home in party atmospheres, I had a quiet and joyful sense of relief to be wearing rainbow next to my dad. To be supported by people who had never met me, simply because we shared a part of an important an often overlooked identity.
Of course, Pride does not carry that same feeling for everyone. It has changed over the decades, as major corporations have glommed onto the opportunity for commercialization of a large, very public, and well-attended celebration, often parading white, cis, gay men as the poster children for a far more diverse LGBT community. Some heterosexual attendees slap a rainbow temporary tattoo on their faces, and label themselves activists for the day. And, of course, there is the matter of disguising excessive drinking as “part of the pride culture.” However, no matter its issues, or what it has evolved into, Pride cannot be written off. Its importance of commemorating the Stonewall Riots and the Black Cat Riots before them, and reflecting that through constant struggle the LGBT community is alive and striving for change, is a necessary spectacle.
All this acknowledged, it is an embarrassment and a disgrace that anyone should be afraid to attend a celebration specifically designed to recognize identity and perseverance. As hypocritical as it is for the rest of the year, Pride is an event in which nobody can be called “too flamboyant,” or too much of an activist, or too greedy for wanting the throngs in the streets to acknowledge that their identity is valid and valued. I have seen high school classmates who used to call my friends faggots, celebrating at Pride, and as stomach turning as that is, I have the sick satisfaction of knowing that they now want an in on a celebration of my communities identities.
I want to acknowledge that being an activist in the LGBTQ community any week other than Pride week can be terrifying, and a good amount of the reason that I use academia to channel my activism is that it does not leave me as vulnerable to confrontation. Of course, I should not have to be afraid of this. Nobody should have to wonder if they are “toning down” their queerness enough so as not to be a target of physical or verbal harassment. Designating one week a year as the right time to be publicly queer is complicated and highly problematic, and not what Pride is designed for, but in a heteronormative society, that has become a part of its purpose.
Pride should be a safe week, a week of celebration and recognition of the LGBT community, and those who have come before us in order to make such a celebration possible. Public activists and private supporters should be able to come together in community, and in love. And there should be absolutely no fear (unless you are claustrophobic). This is not to invalidate the grief and subsequent feelings of loss and fear we have this week after Orlando. If your grieving involves skipping Pride and taking time for yourself in your home or with friends, so be it. There is no shame in grieving, just as their is no shame or greed in taking deep self-regard in being queer, and asking others to let you do so publicly.
I am lucky enough to have been given another chance at Pride this year, living in the Bay Area. The fact that my “irrational” fear of being punished for my queerness is now a very rational thought is heartbreaking, but it has to be overshadowed by hope and love. There has never been a more personal time for me to believe in the saying, Love Wins. I cannot say that I will be attending Pride in anyone’s honor, but I sure as hell owe it to myself to keep the fear at bay, and live proudly. As OutWrite’s own slogan states, We’re Queer, We’re Here, All Year, and hate cannot diminish our perennial ability to showcase that pride and love.
From Huffington Post, some organizations and charities which will support the Orlando victims’ families:
Local LGBT civil rights organization Equality Florida has set up a GoFundMe page to support the Pulse nightclub shooting victims and their families. More than $1.7 million has already been donated as of Monday afternoon. Donate here.
CrowdRise has also launched a larger relief fund supporting a number of charitable causes, both those helping the victims of the Orlando shooting, as well as those working long-term to address issues of inequality and gun safety.Donate here.
A variety of local Central Florida LGBT organizations have partnered to run an emergency hotline and grief counselors at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida. They have also set up a GoFundMe page, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Orlando shooting victims and their families. Donate here.