Let’s face it, times are difficult for queer people. While same-gender marriage has been the law of the land in the US since 2015, queer people are under constant threat for merely existing. Queer identities are constantly touted in the news cycle as part of a “woke” and “queer” agenda, not to mention accused of child grooming. It is hard to feel accepted in a society that wants to villainize and delegitimatize our existence. While not every identity in the LGBTQIA+ community faces the same hardships, all queer identities face oppression within the cisgender heteronormative patriarchal society. This is why it is crucial to recognize the importance of Queer Pride. Expressions of romantic, platonic, and sexual attractions should not be limited by allonormative, amatonormative, and heteronormative expectations.
A brief history of Pride
While some believe the LGBTQIA+ community is “new” the reality is that these identities have been around forever. Queer people have been documented as far back as ancient Egyptian times. In more recent history, the LGBTQIA+ community has been shaped by pivotal events, such as the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which played a crucial role in promoting tolerance and acceptance of queer individuals. The Stonewall Riots occurred in the West Village of New York City, where queer people gathered at the Stonewall Inn, one of the few gay bars in the city at that time. Unfortunately, due to politics and the legal system, queer identities were criminalized, leading to frequent police raids on queer spaces, including the Stonewall Inn. The police brutality experienced by countless queer individuals, who were subjected to arrests, verbal abuse, and physical violence, became the catalyst for the Stonewall Riots. In response, they courageously fought back against the police, using bricks and their fists. One year after these events, on June 28th, 1970, the first-ever Gay Pride March took place, igniting a wave of similar marches across the nation and around the world.
Why we need Pride
The need for Queer Pride is vital and serves as a lifeline for many LGBTQIA+ individuals who encounter hardships across various aspects of their life. Pride allows us to feel connected in a world that seeks to erase us. While we can hope for a better tomorrow, the reality is that Queer people are in danger and at risk!
Some disturbing statistics
Statistics reveal a distressing reality: queer youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide as compared to their peers of a similar age. On average, at least one queer youth will attempt suicide every 45 seconds. Discrimination plays a significant role in these statistics as 73% of all LGBTQIA+ youth experience discrimination sometime in their life, which further exacerbates the risk of suicide attempts. Moreover, queer youth subjected to conversion therapy face even higher risks, being twice as likely to attempt suicide and 2.5 times more likely to engage in multiple suicide attempts within a year. Access to healthcare is another critical concern, with 8% of LGBTQIA+ individuals being denied healthcare services, while an alarming 27% of transgender individuals face healthcare denials.
Transgender folks are extremely susceptible to hate crimes and violence and often this can turn into homicide against trans people. Transwomen, specifically transwomen of color, are disproportionately victims of homicide.
These statistics are alarming but sadly they are not surprising. LGBTQIA+ folks often endure a multitude of challenges including bullying, stigma, discrimination, homelessness, and prejudice. These adversities make them more vulnerable to experiencing poor mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, substance and alcohol abuse, among others. Furthermore, our healthcare system already lacks an adequate number of culturally sensitive providers, creating barriers for queer individuals to feel comfortable during regular doctor visits and acting as a deterrent to seeking healthcare altogether.
The cumulative impact of these factors results in what is known as minority stress—a term that encompasses the combined effects of prejudice, stigma, and victimization. Minority stress is further intensified when intersecting identities, such as race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, ability/disability, and immigration status, come into play.
This is why LGBTQIA+ members must connect with members of their community. Within these connections, they can find understanding individuals who can empathize with the hardships they have endured, while also serving as a source of support for ongoing struggles. Research has consistently demonstrated that social support within the LGBTQIA+ community acts as a mitigating factor for poor mental health outcomes.
Additionally, accessing mental health resources and support networks, such as counseling, support groups, and LGBTQ+ affirming spaces, can play a vital role in promoting emotional well-being and resilience. It is worth noting that familial support has been identified as one of the most influential protective factors for LGBTQIA+ mental health, as highlighted in this study.
Pride promotes visibility, representation, and acceptance
Celebrating Pride and showing widespread acceptance and celebration of queer identities strengthens and supports those who are still exploring, learning, and coming to terms with their own identities. Pride provides us with the opportunity to reflect on who we are, how we perceive ourselves, how the world perceives us, and how we choose to define ourselves. It allows us to call into question the hurtful and villainizing rhetoric that we have come to hear on a near-constant basis and check our own internalized homophobia and transphobia. We become more accountable.
When we reflect on Pride, we reflect on all the hardships the Queer community has endured as LGBTQIA+ Pride is not solely a celebration of sexual orientation – it represents a powerful movement that advocates for equal rights, social acceptance, and the affirmation of identity for the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride also plays a vital role in promoting visibility and representation for the LGBTQIA+ community on its own terms. While Pride may be colorful, flamboyant, and vibrant, the festivities highlight the vast experiences, struggles, inequities, and resilience of queer people to the general public. This enables queer people and non-queer people to learn about and understand the importance of acceptance towards LGBTQIA+ folks, as well as actively challenge preconceived notions of what it means to be LGBTQIA+. Pride empowers us to confront societal stigmas and stereotypes, cultivating empathy and understanding among a wider audience. Moreover, the visibility of Pride events provides essential role models and support networks for those grappling with their own sexual and gender identities. Pride creates a sense of solidarity, community, and kinship for everyone involved. By celebrating Pride, we embrace diversity and promote equality, ultimately benefiting society as a whole by creating a world where every individual can live their authentic and truest self with support, dignity, and pride.