I love the LGBTQ+ community, and I love Pride.
But today, I find myself angered and saddened by what is happening in the world and in our country; enraged by what is happening to the most vulnerable members of our community – people of color and our transgender brothers and sisters. Disillusioned by how our Pride celebrations have changed, and frustrated by the fact that we seem to have forgotten the roots of our struggle for liberation.
I celebrated my first Pride in June 1990 in San Francisco – one of our country’s largest and longest-running parades. I was nervous, scared, excited, reluctant, and a bundle of other emotions.
Right away, I was awestruck by the number of spectators packing the sidewalks of Market Street. The streets were lined with LGBTQ+ people and allies – celebrating their identity, their diversity and their community. We laughed, joked, smiled, flirted, made new friends and expressed our joy while waiting for the parade to begin.
Eventually, the rev of motorcycles could be heard in the distance as Dykes on Bikes began the procession. They were followed by LGBTQ+ focused social clubs, supportive churches marching in solidarity, and parents marching with their LGBTQ+ children with the PFLAG contingent. For more than three hours, we watched floats, corporate LGBTQ+ groups, non-profits, social clubs, a variety of other groups and people from every walk of life from the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. My shyness and insecurity would flare up every time a drag queen, leather daddy or cute guy would stop and flirt with me. On this day, I witnessed facets of our LGBTQ+ community that would feed my curiosity and wonderment for the next 25 years.
I was overwhelmed with a sense of belonging, and I truly felt like I had the right to live, to love, and to share that love with another man. I fell in love with Pride and with the LGBTQ+ community. For just one day, I did not have to pretend to be someone or something I wasn’t. For just one day, I was accepted for who and what I was.
Many of us can trace the freedoms we enjoy today to the transgender women of color at The Stonewall Inn who chose to stand up to the NYPD and proclaim “NO MORE!” – no more will you come into our safe spaces! No more will you harass us! No more will you arrest us! No more will you degrade our humanity! No more will you treat us as less than human!
People of color and our transgender brothers and sisters are still under attack and struggling for the same rights and freedoms many of us enjoy today. Should we be celebrating entities in our parades and festivals that have traditionally targeted our community and continue to target our most marginalized members? Have we forgotten that Pride is a protest and Pride is political?
The freedoms we enjoy today derive from a long history of struggle, protest, resistance and persistence. Our Pride celebrations have recently seen an exponential growth in corporate marketing and sponsorship. While it is wonderful that so many corporations now value the LGBTQ+ community, should this marketing be done by our Pride organizations? Should our Pride parades be filled with corporate floats or should our parades instead highlight organizations that are fighting to keep and expand our rights?
As the freedoms we have today are increasingly challenged, now is not the time to continue with business as usual. Now is the time to reconnect with the roots of our struggle and to march proudly through the streets proclaiming that we are still here. We need to bring our most marginalized community members to the center of our struggle and fiercely defend their basic rights.
Adam Miramon is an acupuncturist, activist, artist and poet. He has lived in D.C. for 10 years and owns Uptown Acupuncture in Tenleytown.