LGBTIQ Pride festivals are an opportunity to connect with the community, to stand visibly, collectively and to celebrate who we are with revelry.
They’re also contentious – recent controversies include whether police should be permitted to march in London and Toronto, and the subsuming of the umbrella into “Gay Pride”.
Indeed, celebrating “who we are collectively” is challenging when diversity defines us, and many find the over-emphasis on gay men frustrating. “Is Pride still necessary?” is often asked, but even more importantly, in today’s climate of a frequently fragmented “community” – is Pride still relevant?
To move forward with progressive attitudes to Pride, we must look beyond the parades to the vulnerable who in turn, look back to Pride.
In my youth, I eschewed Pride entirely, eager to avoid the sweaty, drunken and loud campery (the arrogance of the young!) I was out, I was proud (or at least having casual sex) – what need for Pride?
As I age, however, I see active and constant discrimination in our legal systems and our society, and I realise – Pride isn’t only for the people brave or advanced in their journeys enough to attend.
Take Malcolm Turnbull’s “biggest achievement” of marriage equality. Last year, in the wake of the crashingly positive plebisicite result, and the waves of “Love Wins” celebrations that followed, I felt hollow and numb.
The “victory” was tainted by the process. Our youth were forced to see and hear the validity of their identity and existence held up for public scrutiny.
Hatred, bigotry and violence was given airspace and legitimised on a public stage by our government. I will never forgive their voters and supporters for inflicting this experience on our community’s youth, for the impact on the mental health of vulnerable and developing queer people.
Our latest Prime Minister Scott Morrison despairs of teachers trained in sensitivity to support trans youth as “gender whisperers,” while overseeing a budget as Treasurer that funds a chaplain in every state school in the country.
In Sydney, a street artist’s commissioned mural of George Michael is painted over in black hatred.
A 13-year-old in Aspley killed himself due to homophobic bullying in 2016, while Safe Schools debates raged – and only a month before, the program had been stripped of federal funding.
I work with a boy who was in his class – two degrees of separation from, “He said ‘The kids at school keep telling me to go kill myself’. [The other students] did call him nasty names, like faggot and fairy.”
The word “privilege” can be unconstructive, frequently used to attack an envied, powerful foe and cause division.
But having left one’s own tormented days of high school bullying behind doesn’t mean that bullying is over, that we’ve “moved past it.” It certainly doesn’t make one “too good for Pride,” as I used to feel.
If one feels secure enough to attend Pride, to seek affirmation and community, and to stand visibly and proudly, we are the privileged in those choices, and we need to be visible for those less able.
When our youth are killing themselves and politicians are publicly decrying and denigrating LGBTIQ youth, when some small towns in America are having their first Prides ever in 2018 (come on, regional Australia), Pride is our time to support emergent youth and pay forward one’s own privilege by demonstrating visibility and celebration of identity.
We owe it to our young people, because when we’re silent, we don’t exist, and when we’re vocal, we’re a “demanding minority”. I know which I’d rather be.
Plant your feet, march, stand tall, and demand away at Pride. If not for you, then for the next generation who cower where you’ve gone before.
Brisbane Pride Month runs throughout September, with the Pride Festival Rally, March and Fair Day on Saturday, September 22. The Parade begins on Brunswick Street at 10am. For more details and tickets to Fair Day, visit the Brisbane Pride Facebook page.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.