Taking over the QChat column can be a bit of an intimidating task. It’s up to me to represent and speak for Temple’s LGBT community, which – with a community as diverse as ours – is virtually impossible. As intimidating as it may be, I’m also incredibly excited to be writing QChat this semester. Not only does it get me one step closer to fulfilling my life goal of becoming Carrie Bradshaw, but isn’t it every writer’s dream to be able to write about something they are passionate about?
As a lesbian, LGBT issues are something that I am extremely passionate about. With this column, I hope to act as the voice of Temple’s LGBT community and to bring up issues that affect us both on a national scale and right here at Temple. I also hope to provide insight for Temple’s straight students and give them a first-hand perspective from someone with different experiences than themselves.
A phrase we hear a lot in regards to LGBT issues is “gay pride.” It means different things to different people, but gay pride is the idea that rather than give in to the shame and discrimination put upon us for years, we — as the LGBT community — are comfortable with and proud of who we are.
I am proud to have this voice and to go to a school that gives me the opportunity to raise it. I am proud to represent Temple’s LGBT community. I am proud to be the first female writer of QChat. And I am proud to be gay.
Gay pride as we’ve come to know it began on June 28, 1970. The first gay pride parade was held in response to the Stonewall Riots that had occurred a year before, where patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City’s West Village, fought back against police officers who violently raided the bar. The few hundred people who started marching on Christopher Street grew into a few thousand by the time the group reached Central Park 51 blocks later. Similarly, that one simple march has grown into a global celebration. There are pride events in 57 different countries. They range from events done illegally in Russia — as the Russian government has banned gay pride events — to the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade in Brazil, which gets more than one million Brazilian Reals ($491,836) in funding from the government, was named the biggest pride parade in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records with 3.2 million participants in 2009. They range in tone, as well. Some use the time to reflect on those who helped get us as far as we’ve come, those we’ve lost to AIDS, hate crimes or suicide.
In most cities, though, pride is a celebration. More than just a parade, pride becomes a citywide block party, turning entire streets into dance floors. Celebrities and politicians take the opportunity to publicly show their support of the LGBT community. If you were at Philly Pride this year, you were lucky enough to have Wendy Williams ask you, “How you doin’?’”
Let’s be honest, when it’s up to a bunch of gays and drag queens to throw a party, it’s going to be one hell of a party. It’s our way of showing the world that no matter what setbacks our community faces, we’re not going anywhere and we’re not changing for anyone. On the other hand, pride is a time for action. It’s the one time a year when the area’s LGBT community and allies are all together.
What better time to organize for gay rights? For the past two pride events here in Philadelphia, I’ve volunteered with the Human Rights Campaign. My jobs have been nothing more than handing out stickers or selling T-shirts, which doesn’t seem like much. But if that’s what it takes for me to feel like I’m making a difference, then I will sell those T-shirts like hotcakes and I will give a sticker to every single person who walks by me.
It’s so easy to feel powerless when it comes to the fight for gay rights, especially as young college students in Pennsylvania, where it doesn’t look like a vote for marriage equality is coming anytime soon. This is why pride is important for us.
If we all stayed in the closet and didn’t speak up, our legislators wouldn’t even have to worry about our rights because there would be no one to challenge them. But when two million people line the streets, that sends a message that we are voices that demand to be heard.
As college students we don’t have much money, we don’t have political positions and we don’t have much influence. What we do have is a voice. And when all those voices come together with pride, we can raise money and we can elect people like Brian Sims, who this year became the first openly-gay Pennsylvania state legislator. Two million voices speaking together can influence a lot of people. Gay pride isn’t just a rainbow-colored block party, and it isn’t limited to the month of June, the month that President Barack Obama has declared to be “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Month.” Gay pride is fighting for equal rights. It’s refusing to listen to political leaders or religious zealots when they try to say there’s something wrong with us. It’s changing your Facebook to say “Interested In: Women” when you could very easily leave it blank. It’s wearing a “Legalize Gay” shirt or holding your partner’s hand and not worrying about what other people think.
Gay pride is continuously working to make yourself and those around you more tolerant, so one day a 14-year-old can be out at school and not have to worry about getting bullied to the point of wanting to commit suicide. It’s trying to make the world safer and more accepting for the generation that comes after us, in the same way those who were at Stonewall on that June night in 1969 made the world safer and more accepting for our generation.
Sara Patterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.