“Pride” was the conversation topic at our last Vancouver Generous Space meeting. We all shared our memories and associations with Pride parades, festivals and events, and while there were some common threads, it struck me how differently we experienced Pride, and I continued to ponder this as I read other Pride reflections online from community members across Canada.
For some of us, Pride was the first place we ever felt safe and welcome, surrounded by people who share a common bond, like long-lost family we’re just meeting for the first time. For others among us, there’s been an intense out-of-place-ness in the “loud and proud” Pride crowd, and we’ve wondered whether we belong, whether we’re “queer enough.”
Some of us remember hiding in the corners and at the edges of Pride events, worried about being “outed” or seeing someone we knew. Others of us chose Pride month as our opportunity to come out publicly, and we celebrate this anniversary every year. For many of us, Pride has helped us battle our toxic shame and internalized homophobia, and has been part of our journey to reassert our dignity and belovedness as LGBTQ+ children of God.
Pride for some of us is an opportunity get outside our comfort zone and express our gender and style in fresh and bold ways, a chance to dance and move and celebrate our embodiment. Others of us prefer quieter events like queer poetry readings and coffeehouses.
Some of us can’t wait to reunite with our friends and chosen family at Pride – it’s a great excuse to gather so many loved ones in the same place. But there are others of us for whom Pride month feels even lonelier than usual, because we cannot take an active part (e.g. we live in rural areas, we need to remain closeted for now, or we’re struggling with our mental/physical health).
Some of us opt out of Pride completely because it has become too corporate and we feel like companies are using Pride just to “pink-wash” their businesses and attract new queer consumers. Others of us are grateful to work for organizations who will support us publicly, and we can’t wait to stand on our company float alongside our fellow LGBTQ+ employees.
Some of us seek to honour the roots of Pride, especially this year as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when, led by trans women of colour, LGBTQ+ patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against police raids and kickstarted the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights. We are drawn to Trans Marches and Dyke Marches, protests and alternative/anti-racist/anti-ableist events where queer people with marginal, intersecting identities are centered, and we continue to push for justice for all.
Some of us are spending our time at Pride this year trying to get the word out about our local Generous Space groups. Others are busy drowning out the voices of fellow Christians who use the occasion to preach hate. Some allies in our community are offering “free mom/dad hugs” or “I’m sorry” messages on behalf of the church.
For all of us, there are parts of Pride we’re drawn to, and parts that we avoid… but they’re not always the same parts. We are not monolithic; we have different ideas about what is appropriate, enjoyable, worthwhile and beneficial.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously said, there is the “danger of a single story” In her words, “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” LGBTQ+ people are weary of being stereotyped by straight Christians who believe one story about all Pride-goers: that they necessarily love nudity and lack any sexual ethics. But even within the LGBTQ+ community, we sometimes forget that we don’t all experience Pride in the same way. It can take effort to intentionally expose ourselves to multiple stories beyond our own.
This Pride month, our household has been pushing beyond “the single story” by watching an excellent TV series called “Pose” (we bought the first season for $17 on YouTube – so worth it!). It’s set in New York in 1987, and follows three trans women of colour, played by incredible trans actresses, with an excellent supporting cast of (mostly) black gay men. It didn’t take more than a couple episodes to fall in love with all of these gorgeous, flawed, nuanced characters. They faced so many complex challenges at that time: widespread queerphobia, the pressure to “pass,” family rejection, losing so many friends to AIDS, the fear of being diagnosed with HIV, transphobia even from within the LGB community, not to mention all the intersecting injustices of racism and poverty. I cheered them on as they reclaimed their humanity, dignity, fierceness and beauty by competing in the underground ballroom scene, and I wept at the depth of chosen family they discovered as they shared life in their different “houses,” each led by an adoptive mother figure. Their fictionalized but believable journeys are so different from my own, yet I find resonance with them.
As queer folks, our paths branch in many directions in our distinct efforts to find our people, tell our stories, face our obstacles and assert our sacred worth. Let’s take care of each other, listen to stories beyond our own, and resist making assumptions as we find our way forward together this Pride season.