Listen to Your Elders – Pt. 2

Part 1 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.

A.J.: I have not gone to PRIDE (yet), mostly because of wondering if I belong in that space due to not figuring myself out until I was older. Many of the LGBTQIA people I personally am acquainted with have known most of their lives they’re queer, and unfortunately, in my area of the world, some/a lot are judgmental. Like having to somehow ‘prove’ queerness to be in that space. Or that only certain labels are acceptable, and those are not my labels. I had a negative experience at a ‘Fruit Fest’ (queer music fest) a few years ago that really drove home the issues for me.

Maybe we’d be okay. Even if being queer meant we had to break away from what we were born into to form new families. ~ Allen

Allen: I was almost 16-years-old, so summer of 1995. Overwhelming. Colors and sounds and voices and wigs and music and rainbows and glitter and confetti and, just, everything. The thing I remember the most is the laughter and love, though. And drag queens and the older members of the community calling me “baby” and looking out for me a lot. Endearingly, of course. Queer people ON THE STREET walking up to other queer people they’d never met before to form friendships, share stories, give support, hugs, tell jokes, and just feel comfortable being queer for one day a year at the very least. I don’t have an annual tradition of going to Pride, but I will always remember the sense of community and non-judgment at my very first Pride. It was truly the first time I’d ever felt accepted for who I was. The thing that sticks out in my mind the most, though, is the 70ish year old mother of an older gay man, there with her son, giving “Mom Hugs” to other queer people who had been disowned by their families (or worse). Seeing queer people crying because it was the first hug they’d had from a mom in God knows how long was heartbreaking, but also gave me a little hope. Maybe we’d be okay. Even if being queer meant we had to break away from what we were born into to form new families.

Anne: I was 27-years-old when I went to my first PRIDE celebration. A few weeks before the actual day of PRIDE, my partner and I had been assaulted by a pair of men who had thrown lit cigarettes through our car window. We were both nervous about going to such a significant, public event. Both of us knew hateful people would be there to disrupt the parade. It felt important, though, to face our fear and support our community. It was a fantastic experience. Even walking to the parade route (we didn’t march our first year) was like being surrounded by family. And something was compelling about joining in that experience.

What makes that Pride so very special to me is by July 16th, 1991 I was diagnosed HIV+, now thirty years later, this year! ~ Charlie

Charlie: My first Pride event was 1991 in Cleveland, and actually the cover of my memoirs is a photo from that day. What makes that Pride so very special to me is by July 16th, 1991 I was diagnosed HIV+, now thirty years later, this year! But right after Pride I was so gravely ill. Passing out at work and my first attempt at college. I lost 70 pounds in a very short time frame and fell to 100 pounds soaking wet, and at five foot ten inches tall it wasn’t pretty. It was rather ghastly. The photo was actually taken by a photojournalist from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and I ended up buying a few of them. I was twenty-four at the time as well even though I had known for so long, but it wasn’t until being in Cleveland that I went to my first Pride parade and festival. I had done Pride drag shows in Fort Lauderdale prior to that but nothing else.

David: I’ve never been. I think this is because I have never had close friends who I could go along with. In the early days, of course, it was seen as a protest, an event to attend as an activist – and I just couldn’t, for many, many years. I do hope to go one day. I think I should.

Dee: I have not gone. I think too soon for my wife, I came out about 4 years ago and she still struggles with it. I do want to go at some point.

At the time I couldn’t believe a world like that existed... It was such a great experience the three of us returned the following year along with a friend of my cousin who had recently come out. ~ Estebán

Estebán: I went to my first pride when I was 18. Now I know I mentioned the college group when I was 19, but the first pride I attended was not with a group of friends. So, as I mentioned earlier, my cousin Danny had died from AIDS complications. At his memorial service, I sort of came out. It was not intentional. Long story short, I was upset about some family stuff and my uncle came over to comfort me because he thought I had come out to my grandmother. I hadn’t, but now everyone knew. My mother’s family was cool with it, as I said before, I was the third person to come out on that side of the family (this is the white side of the family). My uncle was a former rock star in the 80s, so he wasn’t like the rest of my family. I ended up spending most of the service hanging out with him and his wife (he had remarried and I had just met her that evening). Growing up, my parents didn’t like my sister and me hanging out with my uncle because of the lifestyle of bands in the 80s. Anyways, my aunt and a family friend, who was gay, offered to take me to pride. My uncle lived in Berkeley and San Francisco was just a BART ride over. So, I went with the two of them. It was amazing. I walked around in wide-eyed wonder. We got there before the parade and I was in awe of the floats and seeing people being free and comfortable with themselves. Women were walking around topless and no one paid them any mind. Men were dancing around barely dressed. At the time I couldn’t believe a world like that existed. When I was a kid, the only image I got of gay culture was the Blue Oyster in Police Academy. But my favorite moment at the pride was, there was a group of women walking dressed as Xena and Gabrielle carrying a sign that read, “Xena Loves Gabrielle.” Later that day after the parade, we were walking around the festival and we saw one of the Xenas. She looked just like Lucy Lawless. Sort of shy me walks up to her and says that Xena is one of my favorite characters. I ask her if I could have a hug from Xena. The woman smiled and opened her arms and pulled me towards her. It was such a wonderful moment for me. It was such a great experience the three of us returned the following year along with a friend of my cousin who had recently come out. It was fun walking around with him and seeing him be exactly how I was the previous year.

Eugene: My first PRIDE was in Washington, D.C., in 1986. The pastor of the local MCC had described it as an event where people got drunk and cruised, but I found that not to be the case, or perhaps I had directed my attention elsewhere. I could have done without all the floats whose riders threw strings of beads to onlookers, but other than that, I found it affirming just to be around that many queer people.

Jean-Christophe: My first Pride took place as I was 18 and living in Germany. It took place in Frankfurt, and even if I did not make it to the parade itself, I was soon in charge of serving beers at one of the bar tents called “Gay village” in one of the largest parks of that city! I had already started to drink heavily when I was still underage (and my inner hatred resulting from my complete inadequacy resulting in failing at making any kind of meaningful relationship was fueling it, and I don’t remember anything after the last people left the park to go to one of the many pride events taking place at quite a few clubs. What I remember is that it actually smelt like freedom and that people you had never met, and would never meet again were like member of your extended family. I met with some other volunteers of the AIDS-Hilfe and I felt exhilarated by this sense of “communion”.

Kevin: There aren’t any Pride events in a reasonable distance from where I live. I also have no one to go on a road trip with, so I always celebrate Pride year round by supporting LGBTQIA+ artists, authors, and performers, and by donating to worthy causes.

My (nice) colleague saw me and told me he was disgusted. “AIDS is self-inflicted.” ~ Lyndizzle

Lyndizzle: My first PRIDE was when I was about 35. It wasn’t a big one. I went with my partner. Before that, there wasn’t much in my city and I would have been scared of being “seen” in my 20s. I did go on various protest marches in the late 80s and 90s and I did AIDS street fundraising in London. My (nice) colleague saw me and told me he was disgusted. “AIDS is self-inflicted”.

Maestro: It was my first year in SF 1990. I was singing with the SFGMC and we performed. Then afterward, my new friends and I meandered all over Civic Center plaza. Everyone was so ebullient. I can’t count the number of times people wished me “Happy Pride!” Before that moment, I never felt who I am was something to be celebrated. I felt valued, loved, and safe for the first time.

Matt: I haven’t.  Living in denial and being so unaware, I never felt this was my community until this past year.  That I belonged or that that was me. 

Maxime: No, I haven’t been to a Pride yet, mainly because the Pride parades here are always accompanied by a heavy right-wing protesters’ presence, and it could be dangerous. We might go this year if safety is guaranteed somehow.

Melissa: My first Pride wasn’t a good experience. My ex-wife insisted on us being in the parade. It was nothing more than putting us at the center of attention for her own narcissistic needs. It put a damper on ones that came after. I have attended one since our divorce and I had a blast. I went by myself and made all kinds of friends and hung out with complete strangers.

‘Nathan: I worked! I’d come out once I got to University, got disowned, and picked up any and all jobs I could find to get by, including a gopher-style job where I ended up handing out magnets and coupons for time for gay chat lines to parade watchers. By then, I was lucky enough to have found a chosen family mostly of drag queens and the bear community, alongside some queer university friends, but I didn’t actually “go” to Pride as a celebration that year.

It was the first time I ever felt quite so affirmed and it was amazing. ~ Owen

Owen: London, 1994, at age 18, a little while after I came out at university. The sense of not being alone, of being among thousands of people like me, was almost overwhelming. It was the first time I ever felt quite so affirmed and it was amazing.

Phaeton: Wow! No words. 1981, Denver Colorado. Pre-commercialism, raw emotion, motorcycles, floats, banners, and rivers of people. The heady camaraderie, something often missing in queer people’s lives at the time. The next (Western) generation can’t understand what it’s like to suddenly be the majority in a world where you are excluded. Queer people at the time were outside of the herd, and there was that one day, where the numbers and presence didn’t just give you a sense of acceptance, but safety…and power!

Rob: 1997 Calgary. Seeing the parade, being invited to march along in the parade, was such an overwhelming sense of community and inclusion.

Roberta: I haven’t gone to PRIDE because I hate crowds and going outside. *laughing*

S.A.: I haven’t gone to PRIDE yet. I was planning to go just before the pandemic. I have plans to go next year.

Shai: My first pride was in Boulder in 1992. I was very much a bystander but it felt remarkable seeing people march and sell goods. My first time actually marching was in Denver two years ago with other people in education.

Urban: My first Pride was in Stockholm 2000. This was a fantastic time because it was just a month after I came out and suddenly gay guys were everywhere. Also this is when I met my husband as he is now.

I’m extremely shy so to have strangers just come up to me and chat and dance and flirt, it was really special!! ~ Vince

Vince: My first was Philly Pride, probably around ‘92-93. I missed the parade itself as I worked every Saturday but the parade culminated into a huge dance party right on the riverfront. It was a beautiful day and everyone was just so nice and friendly and it felt like everyone became friends by the end of the night. I’m extremely shy so to have strangers just come up to me and chat and dance and flirt, it was really special!!

W.D.: I checked out my first PRIDE parade in the late 1970s; the parade was festive and celebratory. Some 30 years later, my son and I were on a float in the parade itself, and it was empowering.

A.J.: Accepting myself (and others) and being proud of who I am no matter what.

At its heart, it’s a protest. It’s a rebellion. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. Or you can take a brick to your fucking face. ~ Allen

Allen: The demand for equality and to be free from persecution. Pride isn’t just a colorful, loud, joyful event. Though it is also those things. It’s also a remembrance of all of the queer people who came before us, demanding we be treated equally and that we have the same rights as everyone else in this world.  It’s a lot of fun, because us queers love a good time. We love a party. But at its heart, it’s a protest. It’s a rebellion. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. Or you can take a brick to your fucking face.

Anne: PRIDE’S meaning has changed for me as I’ve grown in my awareness of my own queerness. It has also changed as I’ve witnessed the exclusion that exists in our community. The first several years I attended PRIDE, it was for the celebratory aspect of the event. And that was all I wanted to see. But as I’ve aged and become more aware of how PRIDE celebrations exclude, denigrate, and ignore members of our community, I’ve become more cautious about the event. Now, I feel that PRIDE is a time to reflect on the journey we’ve taken as a community, celebrate where we are, and look forward to the spaces and fights we must engage in to realize our liberation. It’s not just a time for sparkly hand-fans (of which I have several) and parades. Celebration is part of it, but recommitment to honoring every member of our community and their journey should be part of that experience, too.

Charlie: First of all Pride, for me, marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and those brave souls who stood up to the cops and fought back. Without those brothers and sisters on the very fringes of society we wouldn’t have anything that we have today. Pride also, ironically, marks the death of Judy Garland the day before the riots, and Judy has always played such a huge part of my life that I can’t leave her out of this equation. Pride also means that we are still fighting, to this very day, for our most basic rights that so many of us still do not have. Especially trans rights, that so many feel that should not be part of the gay rights movement, based on what is being said on Twitter this year during Pride. However, trans rights are gay rights and until we all are equal, none of us are equal. Pride, to some degree, is a protest demanding our equal rights, it’s part party, of course, for the ground we’ve gained, part memorial for a lot of us who lost so much and so many because of the AIDS Crisis.

...it is extremely important for the LGBTQ+ community to unite and proclaim their presence to the world ~ David

David: I think as a month-long events platform, it is extremely important for the LGBTQ+ community to unite and proclaim their presence to the world, and for the rest of homonormative society it is important for them to acknowledge our existence and think about how they can do better to include and not discriminate against, or attack us.

Dee: A celebration of acceptance and strength in numbers–true love.

Estebán: It changes for me constantly. It is affected by my mood and what is happening in my life and what is around me. But at my core, it is about being yourself. Standing up and allowing yourself the freedom to be your true self. It also means being the strong one for those who need help standing up. I learned early on the history of Pride and what had happened to have sparked it. Before coming out, I knew nothing of Stonewall or Harvey Milk. But once I came out and I would talk about things, my father would reference remembering seeing stuff on the news about it. But it was like these small news bits that he got from the paper that was buried behind other news items. It should be a time to celebrate who we are, but we shouldn’t forget why we are celebrating and the price those who came before us had to pay for us to have what we have. In my 20s, I would see many other young queers being disrespectful to the older generation and it would infuriate me. Each generation of LGBTQ does have it a bit easier than the one before. It shouldn’t be forgotten and the fight to be equal should never stop until we truly are equal.

Eugene: It does not mean that I’m proud of an attribute that I did not select. It means that I am not ashamed of who I am, including that attribute, and that I am proud of what I have made of my life despite the impediments.

Hadrian: Pride events are a moment when I, as a gay kinky man, get to set the parameters of society and when straight vanilla people have to take a backseat and be the uncomfortable ones for a while. It helps balance out all the rest of the year when I’m the weirdo who has to blend in. Pride is a moment for me to blend out.

Jean-Christophe: It should be a time to celebrate our few victories but also remember that these victories have never come without a fight. That our “allies” are only interested in us as long as we mean potential votes. That what we have today can be taken away from us in a glimpse. That in 2021, almost everywhere on this planet, LGBTQIA+ are being molested, killed, and persecuted for being just who they are. When we move one step forward, other members of our community are still nowhere near even a semblance of freedom, and even that step we took can lead to even more hate. Places like Iran execute teens for being gay. Russia, and now Hungary, are fighting to put all gays back in the closet, forbidding any kind of so-called “homosexual propaganda.” The Catholic church is still persecuting our community everywhere it can as does many other faiths. It should be a time to remember all those who have come before us, have given any form of comfort and sometime their lives for us to have better chances at happiness. It should be a time to educate younger ones who in safe places can be themselves and come out at a very young age. LGBTQIA+ history should be taught to all in school from an early age and we should make sure to put up websites or other mean of communications so LGBTQIA youth can see what it was like and oftentimes what it is still today to grow up gay. Many teens today don’t even have a clue why we celebrate Pride.

It’s about celebrating the diversity in our community. It’s about equality. It’s about love. ~ Kevin

Kevin: Pride means remembering those that came before us, blazing the trail, risking and often losing their lives, to forward the cause of freedom, equality, and love. It’s for every bullied kid, every couple who had to hide their relationship, and every person who had to pretend to be someone they were not. It’s about celebrating the diversity in our community. It’s about equality. It’s about love.

Lyndizzle: To me it means claiming our space as full people. To say: “here we are, all of us, outrageous, ordinary, fun, boring, people you relate to and people you don’t.” To me it’s so important to have queer rep – I grew up without pretty much any. Everyone should be able to see themselves in books, movies and in real people, and everyone should have a chance to get together with people like them and celebrate. That’s why I think there should be space for all queer people, for kink, for allies (some of whom are queer people who haven’t come out or are still finding themselves out), for everyone.

Marcus: I’m grateful for the people who fought for queer rights early on and who took many a beating so those who came after them don’t have to. If people want to celebrate that by dancing down the street half naked, I’m all for it. If it annoys queer-phobic bigots, even better. Also, the history of PRIDE needs to be taught in schools.

Maestro: A Safe Place to love without judgement.

Matt: Living your truth and authentic life; acknowledging the suffering, but also the progress by brave individuals, of the past.  Standing up with pride for yourself, vs cowering (even if only internally).

To have the freedom to be who I am. To be proud of who I’ve become. ~ Maxime

Maxime: To have the freedom to be who I am. To be proud of who I’ve become.

Melissa: It means I get to be around people I can be myself with. I don’t have to try to act “normal” to get anyone’s approval. I can just be me and there’s no negative repercussions.

‘Nathan: A protest, ongoing remembrance, a continuation of queer culture and history, and a celebration, in pretty much that order.

Owen: A celebration of our difference, of our identity. A “fuck you” to cis-hetero-normativity. A protest of the discrimination and hate we still face.

Pride will evolve, as it should. By evolution, queer people prove their adaptability, our ultimate survival traits. ~ Phaeton

Phaeton: What Pride means to me…that has gone through an evolution within me. At first, it was revolutionary. Then it slowly morphed into the massive protest movement, trying to raise awareness about the AIDS crisis. Then that changed, into an open effort to integrate/assimilate. I find no fault with that, assimilation was very controversial in my day, but it did lead to equal marriage rights, the most profound victory in queer activism. But in the end, our rainbow flag flies around the world for a reason, we fought and didn’t back down, and we never will. Pride will evolve, as it should. By evolution, queer people prove their adaptability, our ultimate survival traits.

Rob: Pride means celebrating our accomplishments as a community, and committing to continue to fight.

Roberta: It means celebrating diversity and strides the queer community has made toward political and personal acceptance.

S.A.: Being comfortable with myself in my own skin. Being a part of something bigger than myself.

Shai: The absence of shame. A public declaration that we exist in numbers and could be anyone you meet.

Urban: It means that one month we are in focus, and the rights we have fought for and still have to fight for is in focus. They easily drown in the news-flow and so other times of the year but are (more) in focus. Also it is a time to show that we exist right next to all the people who don’t know us and that we are proud of who we are and will not hide or excuse ourselves. In Sweden this isn’t as big a thing as in e.g. the US. I attended Pride in Charleston, SC in 2019 and that was very moving because of the Pride events being held in such a not-so-liberal part of the country. Also seeing all the anti-LGBTQ+ people and religious fanatics was an interesting but scary aspect of the town’s parade.

Vince:  Pride in the sense of the parade/party has unfortunately turned into a giant, drunken mess here in Philly. But the word itself has a lot of meanings. I don’t actually consider it to mean the textbook definition as I don’t know that anyone is really “proud” to be gay but rather to NOT be ashamed to be. I mean, straight people aren’t necessarily proud to be straight and I think most queers anywhere on the spectrum aren’t proud but rather just happy that they can be accepted and respected much more so now than in our recent past. Just my thoughts as I suppose some people are actually proud of their queerness.

It means writing my own narrative rather than have it written for me by the “dominant culture.” ~ W.D.

W.D.: It means living my life authentically each day, embracing all of who I am. It means writing my own narrative rather than have it written for me by the “dominant culture.” Hiding significant portions of one’s life out of guilt and shame is both stressful and exhausting, and the price is high. I wear many hats—African American, Native American, son, father, brother, husband, Baby Boomer, cousin, author, child of God, and being gay is one of those hats. In the words of Rev. Jesse Jackson, “I am somebody.”

Allen: I’m a white cisgender queer male. Massively privileged as far as race and gender go. I haven’t been to Pride since I was in my early thirties, so I’ve never personally experienced age discrimination. However, I’m fat. The queer community—especially queer men—can be very judgmental about body type. You either have to be a toned twink or a muscle queen to be accepted by some queer people. However, I also don’t give a single fuck about that attitude and make space for myself, so the body negativity hasn’t really affected me personally. I see it, though. I see the ageism. The body negativity. The racism. Transphobia. It’s all very noticeable if you don’t have your head up your ass when you go to Pride. I do have personal experience, not necessarily with discrimination or hate, but with judgement for never fully committing to just men or just women. That kind of sucks.

I’ve had my queerness questioned and been told outright that my “straight” relationship wouldn’t be welcome at some community PRIDE events
~ Anne

Anne: PRIDE is a vastly different experience based on the type of PRIDE event you attend and your race, Ethnicity, age, physicality, sexuality, and gender. It feels like more mainstream, corporate-sponsored PRIDE events are explicitly and implicitly hostile toward anyone who might jeopardize what those organizers consider “respectable.” BIPOC experience racism, open hostility, and exclusion. Disabled people often find events physically inaccessible. And those that don’t fit into what the dominant white culture considers family-friendly are often shunned (for example, transgender individuals and specific kink communities). Community PRIDE events, which may be more open to BIPOC and disabled folks, are often hostile toward folks outside binary sexuality (gay or lesbian). I’ve had my queerness questioned and been told outright that my “straight” relationship wouldn’t be welcome at some community PRIDE events because my spouse is a cisgender male, and I’m a femme-presenting nonbinary person. My relationship with my spouse, who identifies as grey asexual, shouldn’t have to pass a visible queerness test to be accepted. Still, I recognize as a white, femme-presenting person, I carry a tremendous amount of privilege. And I see that privilege as conferring even more responsibility to fight for inclusion of the BIPOC, disabled, and transgender people in my queer family.

Charlie: Well, I was going on three years old when the Stonewall Riots took place, so it’s literally my lifetime. A time and place that we had so very damn little in regards to anything. Hell, drag queens were arrested for not wearing one article of men’s clothing! I think age wise, Pride has evolved so much over the years, that so much has been gained, that there are out big time celebrities across many arenas when there was so very little in representation. Age also impacts Pride once again because of the AIDS Crisis. I was fourteen when that very first article about the five gay men in San Francisco and the “Unknown Gay Cancer” broke, and between 1986 when the first person I knew who died of AIDS and 2002 when my husband at the time died; I kept track of every single name. 600 names, and ironically I sat shiva (the period of mourning for Jews) it’s unfathomable the loss, and I thought for the longest time my own name would be among the dead. But I feel to a large degree that AIDS brought out this big time activism for rights that to some degree propelled our overall rights. The community had enough of people doing nothing, not responding to our deaths let alone our lives, and ACT UP was a huge part of my life for the longest time. My gender and race I think play a big part in how the gay community is viewed sadly. As a gay, white, man it seems so many still equate that to a large part of our communities visibility, but it is not necessarily the case as people of color play a HUGE part of our community, and the barriers for coming out are so very different for them from race to religion, to discrimination, to unemployment and so many others. Race affects and compounds so many issues and being gay and of color compounds the issue of even more so as I feel it divides them even further from their own community. We as the LGBTQIA+ members of our community I feel could be doing so much more than what we already doing in regards to race and other issues. It seems that we can be our own.

David: Personally, I don’t feel excluded or that it is a privilege purely for the young.

Dee: I want to think it’s the same for everyone. acceptance is acceptance.

After years of seeing what we have gone through and still need to go through, you reach a point where enough is enough. ~ Estebán

Estebán: Being older, Pride has become more internal. I haven’t been to a Pride parade or festival in years. I would love to go, but something seems to come up and it doesn’t happen. But having grown up in the 80s, I did grow a thick skin. Even to this day, being called a slur has no effect on me. I have heard them all, and they are even less impressive now. There is a certain joy watching a homophobe struggle to try and hurt you with words when you can throw it back in their face. People who know me now, can’t fathom the person I describe to them in my youth. I am more outspoken now and speak out against injustices. Even if it means hurting myself professionally. But, after years of seeing what we have gone through and still need to go through, you reach a point where enough is enough. For physical traits, when I was in college, I had a lot of friends who had genuine concern for my physical safety out in the world. I would often be asked by my straight friends if I worried about being jumped. My response to them was, and still is, “Who messes with a 6-foot tall Mexican?” There is this notion that pride, especially pride events, is catered exclusively to gay men. Which, I can see why people see it that way. But having been to the parades, I never saw it as the exclusive gay men’s club. I would see all parts of our rainbow. I do feel there is a need to be a united Pride. I understand wanting unique pride experiences. But I think, in the long run, it hurts us more to be separated. There should be a united front that in the past couple of decades I fear has fractured. It is going to end up falling to the next generation of LGBTQ youth to bring us back together. As for racial and ethnic identity, that would be a whole separate conversation. Being biracial has a set of issues in itself. Throw in being gay and it can be even more challenging. From the Mexican community, I have to deal with not being Mexican enough. Lacking in heritage, because I was raised like a “white kid.” My mother was from the South and raised us the way she was raised. Something people, who have not endured it, can never truly understand.

Eugene: The booths serve a diverse enough crowd that I do not believe it is. One year, however, many people showed a double standard on horseplay by lesbians as opposed to gay men.

Hadrian: I am old enough to remember when being LGBT was something shameful, when it was a necessary counterbalance to the constant drumbeat of shame that we used to face in most aspects of our lives. It’s wonderful to see so many younger LGBTs for whom their queerness isn’t something they have to struggle for. But I worry that many of them don’t understand that the world was quite different even just a generation ago and that it wouldn’t take much for them to lose the rights we’ve fought so hard for.

Jean-Christophe: I think that it has a lot to do with where the Pride takes place. In Paris it had become a huge commercial event where I would not feel welcomed as looks are almost everything. These last few years a huge effort was made to make Pride – again – a time to fight for complete equality and not just be a way for bars and clubs to make people dance. Stonewall 25 was a huge cultural, art, literature, political, activist event along with the Gay Games. It lasted 3-4 weeks and I felt that anyone could feel welcomed. But that’s somewhat easy as a white gay guy who had sufficient means to stay at the Marriott Marquis to say. On top of that I was accredited as a CC student journalist and a junior member of the NLGJA.

Kevin: Pride wasn’t such a huge event when I was growing up. I think people of my age were still afraid of being so open about everything. We were also in the middle of the AIDS crisis, and we seemed to focus our attention on getting the powers that be to acknowledge what was happening and to do something about it.

Being a privileged white person in a job that won’t sack me because I’m queer, is a massive privilege. ~ Lyndizzle

Lyndizzle: I didn’t go when I was young because I was intimidated by the “tell me how you’re queer” vibe. Now I’m old I’m not really intimidated by much. Being a privileged white person in a job that won’t sack me because I’m queer, is a massive privilege.

Marcus: Young people who, unlike me, didn’t come of age in the 80s at the height of the AIDS epidemic, might otherwise not be able to appreciate how much it took to get us where we are today.

Maestro: My generation saw the decimation of millions of gay men. In the SFGMC, I sang at countless memorials. Gay men were vilified and AIDS was used against us. Not only did we battle the disease, but we battled the prejudice and misconception that we deserved to die, that we were carriers and should be isolated. It’s strange, but my cohort of friends was multi-racial, multi-ethnic. What united us back then was our mutual struggle. We didn’t play the “who’s more oppressed” Olympics. We were fighting for our lives.

Matt: I’m not sure I feel like I’ve earned Pride yet, but accept that’s my own issue to overcome.  But also know as a white and middle class male growing up in an overall liberal and accepting area and family, my privilege has shielded me from much.

Hungary didn’t have Pride at that time and being queer had to be hidden. ~ Maxime

Maxime: I grew up without internet, in a post-communist conservative country, so knowledge of anything Pride-related was almost non-existent. Hungary didn’t have Pride at that time and being queer had to be hidden. I guess that made it something of a novelty when the first Pride happened in 1993. I was in high school then. I remember having this distinct feeling, watching it on TV, that something new was starting, a breath of freedom, and was amazed at the number of people marching there. Maybe the first realization came then that there were others like me, that I belonged somewhere.

Melissa: It’s definitely different for me based on my age. I’m giving out Mom hugs now instead of getting them. I love it though.

I had this incredible swath of queer elders who helped me come into myself, but those same elders are so often gone now, or, not to put too fine a point on it, exhausted. ~ ‘Nathan

‘Nathan: I’m a cis white queer guy, so really, when it comes to queerness, I’m playing the game on a much easier setting than other queer people, though my (invisible) disability comes into play. I’m also in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, which changes things dramatically (for example, I’m not in a smaller town in the much more conservative Alberta). My age, though—I find myself straddling two generations. I came out (privately, with a smaller group of people) quite young, and then more publicly once I was away from my family. I was lucky enough to meet so many people who were taken from us by violence, hate, and ignorance, but I’m also sometimes “young enough” to exist in the circles of queerlings coming into their own in the present day. I find myself trying to build bridges over the gaps of history and culture that exist by virtue of queerness not being an inherited marginalization. The vast majority of us don’t have queer parents telling us about their queer grandparents, but quite the opposite, growing up isolated and without even the language at hand to even start asking questions, let alone know what we don’t know. I had this incredible swath of queer elders who helped me come into myself, but those same elders are so often gone now, or, not to put too fine a point on it, exhausted. I find myself, in most Pride settings, trying to find ways to connect all these generations of queer people.

Owen: I’m a cis-gender white man with a passport from a G7 nation, a relatively stable income, a regular roof over my head and people who love me. That I’m multiply-disabled and queer doesn’t change that I have a lot of privilege that is not shared by a lot of our queer family; the discrimination I face is never due to the colour of my skin, my passport, citizenship, religion, gender identity or presentation. While my life has rarely been easy, I am definitely one of the people Pride is designed for; I’m not from a part of the queer family that is so-often overlooked and discriminated against, even within the Scene.

Phaeton: I’m a white male, the difference in Pride between myself and someone visibly ethnic, is vast. But the difference in Pride to a queer woman is even greater. I truly believe queer people get the idea that our differences make us stronger. Women have always been my beacon when it comes to activism. More than 50% of the population, women remain oppressed around the world. I feel that women activists know the importance of accepting all under a Big Tent more than anyone.

Rob: Cis white gay guys are fairly mainstreamed. We can get complacent and forget the struggle is ongoing for many in our community.

Roberta: Honestly, I kinda feel like PRIDE isn’t for me as I’m straight-passing and I don’t experience the prejudice and struggles other queer people do.

Shai: I do still feel somewhat uncomfortable about skimpy clothing and overt sexuality, even though I absolutely think sexuality is part of the queer experience. After all, it is what defines us as queer. But being Ace, it often serves as a stark reminder that I am not “normal.” Mind you, I would feel this way at something like Mardi Gras as well. But I don’t feel part of that sort of community and would never go. I was upset not to find Ace rep at Pride the last time I went.

Urban: I don’t think so. It is for us all to be out, proud and happy together!

My coming out was much more difficult than young people have it today ~ Vince

Vince: This is a tough one and I’ve given it a lot of thought! I suppose being male and white is definitely different than being a person of color or a female and being gay. I think white men just have everything easier than non-white, non-male people, in every aspect of American life. I won’t get political but it’s just the way it is. As far as my age…being almost 60 is certainly a lot different than for thatr of a 20 or 30 year old, in every way! My coming out was much more difficult than young people have it today and just being an old dude compared to young guys….well, you know what I mean.

Even in 2021, the overall perception of the LGBTQIA community is that it is predominately whiteIntentionality is required in order to change that narrative. ~ W.D.

W.D.: It is different for me because representation matters. Even in 2021, the overall perception of the LGBTQIA community is that it is predominately white. As someone who stands at the intersectionality of African American and LGBTQ, I’ve seen this perception reinforced far too often in media coverage, given that the “Mothers of the Movement,” Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, were transwomen of color. Intentionality is required in order to change that narrative.

Part 1 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase

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