Pride, Never Stop

Jim Sheppard, QBurgh co-creator. Photo by Chad Isaiah.

I came out when I was 17 years old in 2004. It feels like a lifetime ago. This was an era marked with increased homophobia and transphobia. George W. Bush was president and that year he advocated for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Multiple states across the country were amending their state constitutions with the same “marriage protection” amendments. “Gay” was routinely thrown around the lunch room or locker room as a pejorative. Everything in society around me was telling me that I was bad or wrong or evil for simply being who I am. I had a lot of fear.

We find ourselves again in an era marked with increasing and rampant transphobia and homophobia. Those who seek to silence, erase, or harm us are more organized, louder, and emboldened than seemingly ever before. Over 460 legislative bills have been introduced in states across the country in 2023 that target drag performances, gender-affirming care, trans kids and adults, and ban LGBTQ+ books.

When I find myself slipping back into fear because of what QBurgh reports on a daily basis, I remember the LGBTQ trailblazers who came before us. Movement icons like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and the Stonewall revolutionaries who kicked off all of this that fateful night in New York City in 1969 by throwing rocks, shot glasses, and pennies at their oppressors.

LGBTQ Pittsburghers like Randy Forrester, Jim Huggins, Wendy Bell, David March, Cindy Spell, Fred Gormley, Chuck Cole, and more. Many involved in the planning of the first Pittsburgh Pride march from their apartments in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. Jim Austin, the publisher of Pittsburgh’s first LGBTQ publication, the “Pittsburgh Gay News”, which QBurgh considers among its predecessor publications.

In spite of any fear they may have had, they set off from Market Square at 1 o’clock on Sunday, June 17, 1973, to make the three-mile trek to Schenley Park and they never stopped. They kept going. They kept going because they could taste the freedom and liberation that march symbolized and would bring.

2023 is a different era than 2004. My fear has given way to hope as I will marry the man that I love this year. 2023 is vastly different than 1973 but we find ourselves confronted again by the same foes that seek to stop our queer liberation. Let our fear give way to resolve.

Resolve to keep going because we have tasted the freedom to live our lives just the way that we are.

And when we march on Saturday, June 3 in celebration of Pittsburgh Pride’s golden anniversary, in determination to prevail against the forces that seek to eradicate our community, and to finally secure LGBTQ liberation, we do so with no fear.

Jim Sheppard is a resident of Downtown Pittsburgh. Jim served as a Commissioner on the City of Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission which investigates instances of discrimination in the City of Pittsburgh and recommends necessary protections in our City Code to provide all people in Pittsburgh with equal opportunities. He has worked for Pittsburgh City Council, the Pittsburgh Mayor, and the Allegheny County Controller. For five years he was the President of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (He / Him / His)