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An Open Letter to Straight People During Pride

I’m super queer and I’m not shy about my opinions and critiques of Pride. Let’s just say, I’m passionate about Pride and its cultural/historical significance. This post isn’t meant to discourage you from attending your local pride festivities. It’s also not meant to be the be-all and end all of your learning. This is an LGBTQ+ cliff notes primer – your freshman 101 course if you will.

We owe everything to transwomen of color

Transwomen of color are the most marginalized members of our community because they’re constantly targeted for their multiple identities. They’re also the founding mothers of our political movement. The first Pride was a police riot. Remember, Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate our community but out of the need to protect ourselves. The first Pride was a response to the Stonewall Riots of 1969. It’s equal parts protest, celebration, and family reunion. It’s way more than a parade, in fact, many LGBTQ+ people think of the parades as an afterthought. Pride was started because we needed the means to break free from our people being criminalized, pathologized, and persecuted. And while we’ve made gains over the years, we still have work to do.

Don’t make it about you

Pride is first a foremost a place for the queer community to come together to celebrate our successes and mourn our losses as a community. It’s not just “a good party” or a place to cruise for your unicorn or an opportunity to gawk at half-naked queers and kinksters doing their thing. It’s not about you – even if your partner, friend, brother, sister, kid – whatever – is a member of the community. You’re welcome to participate – in fact, we love that you want to experience our day with us. But think about it like a birthday party – if you were invited to little Johnny’s birthday party and made the whole thing about you, it’d be kinda a dick move, right? RIGHT. So feel free to dance, drink, celebrate, and DONATE with us. But don’t jump on stage or talk to reporters or make people feel uncomfortable.

Marriage equality was never the end goal

LGBT people are still a marginalized group. We face multiple challenges in employment security, housing discrimination, and prejudice. While LGBT rights in the United States have come a long way in the last decade with successes including the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and marriage equality, not everyone within the LGBT community is able to take advantage of these successes. If you’re a homeless queer young person, marriage equality matters very little when you don’t have a bed to sleep in that night. So this Pride season, while you’re enjoying the festivities – take a second to honor how far we’ve come and another second to respect and contribute to the work we still have to do.

Many LGBT people do not want assimilation

Middle and upper-class LGBT people fought for marriage equality because it’s an institution of respectability. As a married queer white woman myself, I understand its appeal. Equal love is a palatable marketing message. When we fought for marriage equality we were telling our straight peers that we as a community were leaving behind our flamboyant, radical, and hypersexual mentality for white picket fences and a wholesome image that was easier for mainstream America to swallow. I cringe every time I hear someone ask why Pride is so sexually loaded; well Debbie – it’s because our community was built on sexual freedom. While we are more than our sexuality – it is certainly a part of who we are and not something we should ever shy away from. For many queer people, the goal is not assimilation, it’s cultural preservation.

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