Pride: Both celebration and reflection

Thu. June 20, 2013 12:00 AM
by Waymon Hudson

LGBT Pride Month, and all its ensuing parades and festivals at June's end, are often a time for community celebration, visibility, and camaraderie. Yet this year, perhaps even more so than in years past, it is also a time for reflection and outreach on the work yet to be done when it comes to equal rights.

It's been a momentous year in many ways, with majority support in the United States Senate for both Marriage Equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), as well as two historic cases at the Supreme Court that could mean greater equality for same-sex couples with the overturning of Prop 8 and the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Chicago native President Barack Obama has continued pushing for Marriage Equality, becoming the first sitting American President to do so in history. Illinoisans even saw their Republican Senator, Mark Kirk, come out in support of full marriage rights for same-sex couples-- only one of three GOP Senators to do so nationwide.

Yet we have felt the sting of setbacks in Illinois as well. The move from civil unions to full marriage rights through the state legislature stalled in the General Assembly, much to the shock and dismay of many advocates. After vocal protest from some religious leaders, as well as money and organizing from out-of-state anti-equality organizations, the "Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" has been left in legislative limbo, sparking rightful outrage and mobilization from the LGBT community and its allies.

That is why Pride celebrations are more important than ever this year.

The visibility that Pride provides is a powerful tool. With more open-minded straight allies showing up to share in the festivities, Pride is a perfect time to educate them more fully on our issues. This year, we can show them we can not only celebrate how far our community has come, but also how much work needs to be done.

Early Pride marches were, in fact, about creating visibility for "Gay Liberation" and "Gay Freedom." Our hometown of Chicago has a long history of taking to the streets for both protest and pride, with one of the earliest protests marches being organized here in the city by Chicago Gay Liberation on June 27, 1970. The message of these early marches were clear-- visibility and organization can bring attention to the inequality faced daily by the LGBT community. Those early LGBT Liberation marches energized our movement and brought sharp focus to the issues facing our community. They were the beginning push in the momentum we now feel as we move towards full equality under the law. That's what Pride was and what it could be again.

The strength of any civil rights movement is its ability to celebrate its successes, yet still demand more. Yes we have come far, but our fight is not over. We have pride in the work done and those that support us-- and we also have pride in never giving up, even when faced with setbacks, obstacles, and delays to full equality.

At Pride this year, our visibility can bring accountability, both for those who have supported our rights and for those that would oppose them. Pride can be a time to not only celebrate-- but also educate, agitate, and activate allies for our fights ahead.

Though disappointed, we can show we are not discouraged. And that is something we can truly be proud of.