June, a month to celebrate summer. The beginning of what is a more restful, peaceful, slower paced time. Perhaps even a good time to reflect on what we have in life, and what we can be grateful for. June, a month to reflect. June, Pride month.
As an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, I do not reflect on this the same way, say, a gay or trans+ person might. I am not thinking about my own struggle, or how much I have overcome. I am not reflecting on hateful slurs flung at me, or how to stand up to hate as a person on the receiving end of it. No. If I wanted to, I could go my whole life not thinking about these things at all. I have that privilege. That is what I reflect on this Pride season.
Privilege is a touchy topic these days. Call someone privileged, and they are immediately defensive, saying, “You don’t know my life, I have struggled too. It’s not so easy for me. DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT PRIVILEGE.” That response right there means you need to reflect, too. It’s ok to have privilege, but check it from time to time.
As an American, cisgender, heterosexual, white, Christian, I have a lot of damn privilege. Obviously, you don’t have to lack privilege to support a cause. Quite the contrary, privileged people should be advocating for those who lack it. The main reason I celebrate Pride is for the people I love. Some of my closest friends are gay. People I have leaned on for support, people who have loved me, people who helped get me through each milestone and hardship. I have seen the good in them, the courage in them, and the love they have to offer. Why wouldn’t I support them being loved and accepted? I march for them, because I don’t want to turn my back on them. I don’t want to see them hurt. Ever. I don’t want to use my privilege and turn my ears off to the causes of their suffering. I want to stand with them.
I also celebrate Pride because I listened. I listened to people who have struggled with coming out, who have been called horrible names, who have to hide their truth from their families or communities out of fear. I listened to their stories, and I reflected on them. Those who don’t want to be called privileged, you need to do the same. Sometimes you need to shut up and listen. Then reflect.
Another reason why I celebrate Pride is I believe in equality. I don’t care what religion you are, I don’t care how you were raised, I don’t care what color you are, and I do not care who you love. A person’s background is important, but is not good reason to hate someone for. Actions, words, character, these are the things that count. We make a lot of excuses in this country, interpret and reinterpret religious texts, hide behind politicians and platforms of hate, and pretend that is okay. It is not okay. If you want to say the United States is the land of the free, everyone has to be free. I will accept nothing less.
It takes more than just love (or a lack of hate) to make change. I believe the most important aspect of gaining equality is empathy. The enemy of empathy is apathy. So what if you don’t know anyone who is gay? No friends or family who belong to the LGBTQ+ community. Should you care? Yes. Obviously. Because it is not always about you. Empathize. Go to a Pride event. Listen to people. Learn. Reflect. Empathize.
I have had the honor to accompany one of my best friends to two Pride parades. My first one was at San Francisco Pride. Prior to the event, I was criticized by some Christians I know who said I shouldn’t go, because that means I am “celebrating their lifestyle.” Maybe I am, and I don’t see that as sinful. Mostly, I am celebrating my friends. I am celebrating homosexuals, transgendered people, bisexuals, queers, asexuals, and anyone else who doesn’t fit the accepted norm in society when it comes to their sexual preferences and identities. Not because I am like, “Yay, sodomy!” My sentiments are more like, “Yay, freedom!” Yay to being different and being accepted. I go to Pride to accept and celebrate these people’s existence, because so many people in this world believe their very existence is wrong. As a Christian, I am taught to love. Above all else, I love. I want to love on these people. I want them and everyone else to know they matter. That is what I am celebrating at Pride. That is what I reflected on last year.
This year, I actually marched in a parade (!!) in Long Beach, with that same best friend, and with the Jewish Community Center. As you may notice from my previous self-describers, am neither gay nor Jewish. On our drive to LB Pride, I thought, here I am, a very white, very Christian, very straight person, spending the day with people not “like me.” People maybe not as privileged as I am. It hadn’t really crossed my mind until that point, and bottom line it really didn’t matter. Yes, I am still that person who had to point that out, even if just to myself. I am still growing as an ally (and a privileged white chick) in many ways. I was honored that they welcomed me with open arms, invited me march along side them. I felt very lucky to be there, with people from all walks of life, supporting each other, walking together with Pride, and at a high point laughing and waving our Pride flags at the Westboro Baptist Church protesters. They flung their hate speech; we took photos in front of them, laughed, and shrugged it off. We joined together to stand up to hate. As I continue to mature and grow as a human being, these are experiences that will shape me for the better.
With every person you meet you learn something new. You learn to empathize. You open up your mind more, and you come out the other side a better person. I think this is especially important for those of us with privilege. I am not saying straight folks should run out and make a gay friend right this instant. Don’t b-line to a gay bar and shout “Yaassss, quueeeeeennsss! Who’s up for a kiki?!” That is only okay when I do it (is it thooo?) (It’s not okay).
I know most people who are not interested in Pride are not going to suddenly be a super LGBTQ+ ally after reading this post. What I do ask is take this into consideration; not everyone is a free as you, and it isn’t always about you. Listen. Reflect. Empathize. You have a lot of power, use it positively. Apathy kills, hate tears us apart. Love wins.
All images property of: Eastman