Pride IS Political

State Representative Jessica Benham.

Happy Pride! As the first out queer woman in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, a place not very friendly to LGBTQ+ people, Pride in who I am and what our community is fighting for keeps me moving forward every day.

Pride was not a value instilled in me growing up – as a daughter of a pastor in a conservative religious community, I felt I had no choice except to be closeted as a teen. It wasn’t until college that I came out, and even then only to a small group of trusted friends. Coming out, as so many of us know, is an ongoing process, never complete. Throughout my 20s, the circle of individuals I was out to continued to grow, until, as I sometimes quipped, I was out to everyone but my family. Being publicly closeted about who I am was never an option in my mind when I decided to run for office, so now I’m out to everyone who googles my name. As an adult, I choose to live the values of Pride openly.

I don’t remember what year it was that I first went to a Pride celebration, but I do remember when I first learned the history of Pride and the many ways it has been coopted from the fight led by Black, Trans women. Pride parades and festivals are a wonderful way to highlight and celebrate our community, but it’s critical that we don’t forget our roots, especially at a time when LGBTQ+ rights, and especially Trans rights, are being threatened across the nation. Attending Pride is about being part of a community larger than ourselves, and that also means being in the fight to protect all of us, year-round.

“Pride is political” is a phrase said so often as to be a cliché, and yet it has never been truer. This year, let us remember the spirit and roots of Pride amidst our celebrations and parades. I’ll hope to see many of you at Pride, and please be sure to come say hi when you see me!

In solidarity,

Jessica Benham
State Representative
District 36