Forty-two years ago we fought back. We said we had had enough, and we weren’t going to take it anymore. That was the message of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Bless those gay men and lesbians of yesteryear; those queers and benders; and especially those drag queens. What would we have done without those drag queens? One year later, Gay Pride marches occurred in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall. That began the tradition of what we celebrate as Pride.
Today, Pride is celebrated the world over. You can find it in every big city from New York to Paris to Rio, and in small to mid-sized towns like Annapolis, Richmond, Austin and Seattle. Chances are if you are reading this, you have more than likely attended at least one event produced for Capital Pride — Washington, D.C.’s own Pride celebration.
Capital Pride is the annual celebration of the LGBT community in our nation’s capital. This year, Capital Pride celebrates its 36th anniversary. This year, Capital Pride has offered more than 30 events that have spanned 10 days that highlight, showcase, and represent D.C.’s LGBT community. We’ve honored heroes, hosted town halls and religious programs, as well as dances, parties and pageants. This weekend, we will conclude with an amazing parade that will be viewed by tens of thousands and a free festival the entire family can enjoy that ranks in the top five for attendance in North America.
Each year, we reflect on how far we’ve come as a community, and how much further we need to travel down that path toward full equality. The last 12 months have been no exception. Since last Pride, we’ve seen the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” along with other steps toward equality. But conversely, in many jurisdictions across our country, we still have not reached our goals with regard to marriage, adoption and a host of other issues. And so we continue to have Pride.
The celebration of Pride is a time when all aspects of our community can come together as one. But Pride has a different meaning to many people.
The dichotomy that is Pride boils down to this: Is it a party or is it a protest? Generally speaking, the answer to that question will depend on the age of the person responding.
I am here to say that it can and should be both! While we will most certainly fail if we attempt to be too many things to all people, we must certainly have a variety of activities that span the cross-section that is our community. This means not only dance parties and happy hours, but also educational and cultural events.
Gay society is changing. Pride celebrations need to reflect that. We are no longer confined to the gayborhoods of Dupont, Chelsea, West Hollywood and North Halsted among others. So it can’t only be about the bar scene.
Many of us who grew up and came out more than a decade ago have a different take on what Pride should be than some who are now coming of age. That’s not to say one group is wrong or right.
Many of the younger generation look to Pride as a celebration — a party. And that’s fine. Those who are a little more “seasoned” often view Pride as a protest, mindful of the riots on those late June nights back at the Stonewall Inn.
And it is extremely important that we show our youth, especially in small towns and throughout middle America, that it does get better. Though we may face hardship and ridicule from our peers, we can become anything we dream of being.
Locally, we need to do more to bring the various Pride celebrations — Capital Pride, Black Pride, Youth Pride, Latino Pride — together, while still retaining individual identities. And we need to do more throughout the calendar year. Pride should be a year-long celebration, not just a few weeks in the summer.
So please come out this weekend and celebrate Pride. And once the fun events and activities are done, give back. Help us plan next year’s festivities. After all, this is for you, the community. Constructive feedback and input are necessary for us to thrive as a community. And if that’s not your cup of tea, volunteer with a local group or organization. There are many in our great city. The point is to show your Pride!
Robert Turner is on the board of directors for Capital Pride Alliance, which produces Capital Pride. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.