What does Pride mean to you?
Pride” to me is an open declaration that I refuse to be shamed or to feel ashamed about whom and how I love. Unfortunately, the dominant culture and social structures of America (and largely, elsewhere also) is a heterosexual and cisgendered one. This disallows people whose sexuality and gender do not fit along these presets to live their lives comfortably and fully. “Pride” is a personal statement (I am unashamed) and an encouragement and act of solidarity (You should not feel ashamed either – we support you).
Pride month and Pride parades in the us come from a history of protest and physical action against police and our government. The Pride movement (as with many other movements seeking civil equality and equity) was started by queer women of color, and these women inspire me today.
What was your reaction to the legalization of gay marriage two years ago?
I felt relieved and frustrated after the legalization of gay marriage in the US in 2015. This issue shouldn’t have taken us so long, and Ireland did it before us!! (Taiwan has since followed!) Also, as the LGBTQ+ community is wide and varied, and we all have individual experiences, identities, and goals. Gay Marriage is one of the many goals that the community is seeking, but arguably not the most pressing or dire. Marriage equality was a highly politicized topic that got a lot of traction and discussion in the US. Lots of people not in the LGBTQ+ community were eager to argue against it or could pretty easily see how it was a good idea. The issue got a lot of political traction and the fear was that people would see its passing as the resolution of every civil injustice against the community. Now that marriage equality is a reality, us gays could be free and happy and shouldn’t complain anymore.
This is worrisome because there are other issues that need addressing also. We need to figure out how to resolve issues with civil treatment of transgender people (in general but also) specifically in incarceration facilities. Medical accessibility and affordability is an issue for all working class Americans, but especially LGBTQ+ ones, whose needs might not be met because of social prejudice and a lack of educated professionals. Violence against LGBTQ+ people is still prevalent and largely ignored. 30 trans people were killed in the US in 2016 and so far in 2017. Employers still discriminate, poverty still particularly affects LGBTQ+ people…we have a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights, and we don’t want momentum to stop even though these issues are less interesting and more complicated than marriage equality.
How would you define a “good ally”?
A good ally is someone who takes the space they are already in and makes it feminist or queer or not monoethnic. If people want to be feminist or queer allies they should listen to others and use their platforms to draw attention to queer issues! These are true allies. Allies don’t need to belong in queer spaces!
Have you had the chance to go to a pride parade? If so, which one(s) and what was it like?
I have participated in three or so pride parades. I marched with the Glide Foundation in the 2014 San Francisco Pride Parade, and in fall of 2012 and 2013 marched with my university in the Atlanta pride parades. My first parade was the most extraordinary. Marching with friends and experiencing such a wild performance of love and celebration was so uplifting. I would joke that I went to pride to soak up energy and recharge so I could make it through the rest of the year. My favorite parts are seeing other queer youth (and older queer people!) marching happily together, and always the counter protest supporters like the Atlanta Angels and the Pansy Patrol. These groups stand between any protesters and the pride participants and block their signs with angel wings or large flower cut-out to help the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and supported during the festivities. These groups always make me emotional, and I love seeing them. I tell them thank you whenever I can.
I was pleased to see that many parades so far this month have called out the corporate over-involvement in pride events. Businesses will march in parades to show their support–which is awesome!–but when you’re watching a parade and you’ve seen a number of corporations in a row wearing rainbows and throwing advertisements to the crowds, you can’t avoid the fact that these companies are benefiting off of their good press as lgbtq+ supportive organizations. Most of these companies prove that they don’t really care about LGBTQ+ people in their policies and workplace practices, but wear rainbows during pride month to get our business. I’d rather see the local boy scouts chapter or the local churches marching in support in a parade, and positions in the parade get sold to companies and businesses instead. Last year’s Atlanta parade was no fun because of this reason. Let us march in our own parades!
Do you have any advice to give young girls who are either questioning or afraid to come out to their loved ones?
My advice to young people questioning is to not let anyone dissuade you from your own questioning. Don’t let others tell you how to identify or how you feel–spend time with yourself and with good people you trust figuring out how you experience (or don’t experience ) love and attraction and your gender. Be kind to yourself on your journey–you have time to grow and change and explore. There’s no rush to figure everything out perfectly or even completely.
My advice to people worried about coming out to your loved ones: it doesn’t get any less scary, I’m afraid. (If you aren’t scared: I’m so so so glad. That makes me hopeful for the future! Be unafraid!!) Every moment is an act of coming out. You have the right to control your own story and your coming out–whether it happens or not. I hope that we eventually get to a place where the “coming out” experience doesn’t happen anymore–where we can all stop making assumptions about each other and feel comfortable being ourselves without justification or reservation. But until then, always be safe. You are lovingly and wonderfully formed and be unashamed of that. Don’t let others dismiss you, but try and be patient with those who might have trouble. You’ve had time to think about your own identities, give them time too. Talk with them and invite them to ask questions. I’m so inspired by young queer people. You are all so brave and so beautiful and I’m so happy to watch you all share your brightness and queerness with the world.