I have opted out of Pride this year.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with going to Pride and celebrating. But for every rainbow-bedecked queer dancing in the streets today, there is another like me, hiding out at home, unsure of whether they’ve made the right choice between the pain of missing out and the pain of being present but feeling distinctly detached from the community. While Pride month should be a time to celebrate our community, I think it’s also important to recognize how painful this time can be for many of us.
Much like my birthday, Pride has become a yearly reminder that, despite my hard work and hopes for the future, I am still so far from where I want to be. I have been battling increasingly severe depression and social anxiety since I first realized I was queer. Unfortunately, this is not unusual, as the LGBTQ population experiences mental health issues at a significantly higher rate than the general population. Bisexual/non-monosexual people (women in particular), the trans population, and community members of color are even more susceptible to mental illness and other health problems.
I have struggled so much to accept myself, to believe that my sexuality and experiences are valid, and to believe that I have a place under the queer umbrella. Pride should be our time to defiantly be who we are with other members of our community, in our own space. But it feels like the modern Pride celebration has been taken from us. Banks, corporations, politicians, and the police march in OUR parades, touting their liberal tolerance and appropriating our flag in order to profit from our struggle.
The police “protect” and march with us on this particular day, only to stereotype, harass, assault, and kill our brothers and sisters of color the next. We are expected to cheer on liberal politicians who support us conditionally, as long as we aren’t too radical (would they still support us if we used tactics like the activists at the Stonewall riots?). Straight people dress up in rainbows and use OUR celebration as a backdrop for their Instagram posts. Last year, a cis-het college acquantaince posted a photo in front of a Target-sponsored Pride backdrop captioned “Proud to be an ally.” This small act made me feel alienated from a space that was supposed to be for me.
The media portrays Pride as a benevolent, family-friendly day out in the park. (Funnel cakes! Wells Fargo rainbow visors!) It erases the struggles of trans and nonbinary people face simply trying to exist without harassment or violence. It erases the systemic racism that permeates every aspect of our white supremacist culture, even our LGBTQ+ spaces. It centers the narrative of the harmless white gay dads-next-door, while it silences people of color and ignores the existence of trans, bisexual, pansexual, queer, lesbian, and asexual identities. This media-friendly presentation also erases the stigma we still face, and its resulting mental health challenges.
To the straight people reading this, please stay out of our bars and community spaces this Pride, unless you are accompanying your queer friend or family member. Don’t proclaim how proud you are to be an ally – your acceptance of us is basic human decency, not something to brag about. Don’t make this about you – this celebration is not for you.
To my fellow gender and sexual minority community members, I write this for each of you who feels unseen, silenced, or alienated during this time, and I want you to know that you are not alone. You are allowed to be proud, sad, angry, frustrated, anxious, hurt, or however else you feel. Your feelings are valid, and your struggle is valid.