Maybe you have heard this, maybe it’s been said to you as it has to me:

“Why do we still need Pride?”  “When is straight Pride? Straight people don’t get a day or a month to celebrate!” or “Why do people have to shove Pride/LGBTQ down my throat?”

Unfortunately, I have heard these things, even from people that I love.

The answers are pretty easy – did you know that in over 70 countries being gay is illegal? Or that in over 10 different countries being gay is punishable by death?  And an occurrence that may be closer to home for some: the word “gay” is still used as a put-down. Do you ever hear anyone saying “That is SO straight!” and laughing mockingly? I have not.

Pride celebrates love and acceptance and gives people a particularly special freedom to express themselves however they would like in regards to their self-identity, partner choice, and more. Pride also promotes equality, visibility, and justice. Celebrating Pride openly is not just for those that identify with LGBTQ or Gender & Sexual Diversity firsthand; celebrating Pride is just as important for their allies! Pride allies that are open and visible about their support of LGBTQ/Gender & Sexual Diversity communicate to others that it’s ok to be you. Demonstrating that you are a “pride ally” at any time lets others know you are a supporter of equality and you are a safe place to turn to in times of need and reassurance that you will give that minority a positive reception.

The Pride celebration originated as a response to police raids on a gay bar in NYC in 1969 that resulted in riots. This raid and riots led to the birth of getting a large group of people together to promote fundamental human rights, rights that don’t just include those that identify as “straight”. Have straight couples been targeted for persecution or violence in the U.S.? The next time you are watching TV commercials, reading a magazine or paper – take note of the ratio of heterosexual (straight) examples there are compared to those that reflect Gender and Sexual Diversity. Also in response to the question “Why do people have to shove Pride/LGBTQ down my throat?”, again, take a look at so many commercials and printed advertisements that show sexual undertones – is that not shoving sexuality or “straightness” down someone’s throat?

How often do we have a month or a day devoted to celebrating the freedom to LOVE, the freedom to express your identity, self, or to celebrate your partner?  It’s a truly unique opportunity to promote hope, acceptance, and equality for all. It’s also an opportunity to learn – learn about the struggles and violence the LGBTQ community has faced and continues to face. If you aren’t on board with the idea of Pride Celebration, I encourage you to tiptoe (or run!) outside of your comfort zone and examine why it makes you uncomfortable? Seek out people you could have an open and non-blaming discussion with to broaden perspectives. I know there are wonderful folks at Jewish Family and Career Services who would be open to that.  We only get one shot at life – why not try to live it with open arms and open hearts – supporting equality of everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or class.

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