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Pittsburgh Pride 2018: Remember Why We Celebrate

I think that I have to start this article by making it very clear that I’m not taking sides. My motive here is not to defend or bash any of the involved parties but, rather, to cross my fingers and hope that these words resonate with someone. If I only manage to touch one person, or a small group of folks, then I think I’ve accomplished something. If not, I hope that these words are at the very least, meaningful, insightful, and thought provoking.

We need to talk about Pride.

The Stonewall Riots began on the morning of June 28th, 1969. They were not peaceful and they lasted for five days. Instigated by two trans women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall Riots did more than just bring visibility to the LGBTQIA+ community. The riots incited a sense of community among LGBTQIA+ folks.  The riots demonstrated the importance of solidarity among gay, lesbian, and trans individuals. Gay rights movements existed well before the Stonewall Riots occurred. However, this was one of the first times in our society’s history where a common cause united different groups of LGBTQIA+ people under one ideology.

This year, unity is something that I felt was missing from our queer community here in Pittsburgh. Altercations over who was going to attend what Pride and which would be better or more worth someone’s time, was all I read about on social media for weeks leading up to Pride weekend. The People’s Pride versus the Delta (EQT) Pride debate felt no better to me than American politics. It felt like a mudslinging campaign for who could be the better boy scout (or girl scout or nonbinary scout). It made me sick to my stomach. It made me feel like I had to choose, and if I didn’t choose carefully enough, I was going to be letting someone down. I wasn’t sure what Pride was going to look like for my friends and me.  

And then I got to Pride on Saturday.

When I stepped onto Liberty Avenue, I felt like I had stepped through a force-field (into a gay Wakanda, if you will). First of all, I can’t ever be mad about being surrounded by people who are wearing the same amount of glitter as I am. That’s rad, and, between you and me, doesn’t happen all that often. My magpie tendencies aside, being surrounded by that many queer folks at the same time was an incredibly safe feeling. That also doesn’t happen all that often.

Stepping into Pride this year reminded me why we celebrate it to begin with.

Pride doesn’t just create a safe space for queer and trans-identified individuals to exist together. It creates a safe space for us to exist together without judgement. Without the fear of scrutiny towards our bodies or towards us, for loving who we are. It reminds us that it’s okay to love who we are, and that our identities are truly something to be proud of.

Pride is for the younger generations of queer, trans, or questioning youth. I saw so many young kids this year walking around with trans or non binary flags draped over their shoulders like capes. I saw preteens with bi and pansexual flags painted on their faces. I couldn’t help but tear up at the proud parents who were escorting their children around, sporting baby blue and pink. My heart about exploded at the amount of “hug a trans boy” signs I saw around (you bet I hugged as many trans boys as I could).

Pride is a celebration. It’s a celebration of bodies, of sexuality, of gender, of love. It’s crying for the entirety of the parade because you’ve never felt a sense of belonging this strong in your entire life. It’s not wanting to go home at the end of the day, because these people understand what it means to have to fight for the validation of who you are, and for a brief moment, you can all stop fighting. It’s running down the middle of Liberty Avenue in drag makeup in the pouring rain because, screw it, rainbows follow storms and damn it if this wouldn’t be the most vibrant rainbow you’ve ever seen.

Our community is not perfect, and if I have learned anything in my life thus far, it’s that positive change takes time and patience. The LGBTQIA+ community is already so marginalized by the rest of the world, and fighting each other instead of working together only succeeds in driving that stake further into the ground. We need to build each other up. We need to find compromise where it’s possible, and we need to lend an active ear where it’s not. We need inclusion. We need to not cast people out of the community, but to ask what we can do better to adjust toxic behaviors and create accountability where it’s due.

If your gut reaction to this piece is to be angry with me for being “too idealistic” or for not taking whichever side you think I should take, please do me a favor and think about the Stonewall Riots. Think about what they meant for the coming together of the LGBTQIA+community. Remember why Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera worked so hard to pave the way for queer and trans rights. Remember why we celebrate Pride in the first place.

Pride masculine body faces away from viewer being pierced by an arrow as the perosn's chest bursts with rainbow.
Artwork by Rowan Andersen

Beliefs and views expressed by contributors on this site are not necessarily the views of QueerPGH. We aim to provide a platform for many points of view within our community. We respect the experiences of individuals and make space for folks to share those experiences.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.