Updated: Mar 25, 2020
“I feel like I can be myself here.”
My niece and I both attended our first Pride parades at age fifteen. 2010 for me, and 2015 for her. Her comment as we walked back to the car made me remember the importance of Pride as a place of comfort, belonging, and representation. Being the gays of the family, we found support in each other and the LGBT community.
“It must run in the family,” she joked after coming out.
I attended my first Pride in high school, as did my niece. However, she held a more progressive view of it than I did when I was her age. She saw a celebration, a community, a culture.
I used to think that Pride was unnecessary, oversexualized, and redundant in the fight for human rights. I wanted to be gay, but not gay gay in that way. Adolescent Me reached for representation within the media, identifying with TV dramas and novels with gay characters that were overtly masculine and straight-passing. I would look at Pride and say “Never.” It took years to unlearn that internalized homophobia.
In the Norwegian teen drama Skam, there is a beautiful storyline and relationship between two guys named Isak and Even. At one point in the show, Isak discusses that he just wants to be a lowkey guy who happens to like guys. He rejects and insults the concept of Pride with a character named Eskild, who is openly gay and flamboyant. Eskild responds with one of the most important queer monologues delivered in contemporary media:
“Okay, let me..tell you one thing about these people you don’t want to be associated with, Isak. About the people who have put on tights and mascara and gone out to fight for the right to be themselves. These are people who’ve, up through the years, chosen to stand their ground even while being harassed, experienced hatred, who’ve been assaulted and killed. And it’s not because they are so extremely keen on being different, but because they would rather die than be someone they’re not. That, Isak…takes courage on such a completely different level than what most people are able to understand. And I.. I believe that before you’ve fought that battle yourself, before you have had the guts to stand up for who you are, you should be really fucking careful about putting yourself above Gay Pride.”
My niece and I have made it an annual tradition to go to Pride together. We look at Pride and say “Always.” Seeing how Pride has been corporatized and sold the past few years has opened a mixed bag of emotions as lines blur between mainstream acceptance and gatekeeping a safe space. Regardless, it remains a vital reminder. The fight is never over, and the fight is not just for you.
We all deserve to not only feel and relate, but to revel in our true selves.
by Jesse Pierson