So, I’m writing this because of all the backlash that pride month is getting this year. For some reason, straight people are feeling the need to create “straight pride parades”, ban gay pride parades, and harass LGBT people and their allies on social media.
I’m going to write about my experiences to hopefully show why Pride is still important, and how LGBTQ people are not treated equally or given “special treatment” like some suggest. I’m also writing knowing that this IS NOT worst that the LGBTQ community goes through. I’m in no way trying to say I’ve had it the worst. Quite the opposite actually – I’m trying to show how everyday homophobia still exists. Homophobia is more than just a gay person being murdered. LGBTQ people can be treated like shit on various levels in all aspects of life, and while nothing is as tragic as a murder, the “smaller” things add up when a community has to deal with it regularly.
Here are some things I’ve had to go through…
Growing up in Ohio, I was called faggot daily at school, my health teacher in high school told me that I since I was gay, I was going to die of AIDS, and people refused to be my friend. Even if they weren’t homophobic themselves, their association with me would ruin their social lives, and potentially lead to them getting called faggot as well. So, to be safe, those who didn’t hate me kept their distance out of fear.
Pride is important because, like me, those who come from areas where nobody accepted them feel alone and hopeless. Pride events show them that they are not alone.
Neglect is normal for LGBTQ people. I didn’t know how my parents would react to me being gay, so I didn’t tell them until I moved out. My German teacher in high school was particularly homophobic and while I had books thrown at me, had my backpack stolen, and threats of being beaten up, she causally looked the other way, ignoring everything.
Pride is important because because, like me, those who have never had anyone stand up for them feel unsafe and scared of the world. Pride events show them that they are allowed to walk this earth without fear.
Finding employment, retaining employment, and having a happy and healthy worklife is difficult for LGBTQ people. Let me use my experience as an example. I was hired at Outback Steakhouse. Soon after, the manager who hired me transferred to another store. The new manager, a ridiculously stereotypical straight man, hated me from the day he walked through the door.
Obviously, it’s impossible to prove that it was homophobia. AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM. In this country, with our laws, anyone can simply say they didn’t like an employee or coworker because of their performance, or their attitude, or some similar complaint, and then the LGBTQ person is helpless in fighting for their rights.
For my example, the manager soon hired his granddaughter. Like me, she was one of the hosts, so we worked together regularly. She pestered me about my sexuality endlessly, until one day I got fed up and finally told her I was gay to shut her up.
She then paraded around the restaurant, loudly telling everyone that I was gay, and how weird that was. When she got back up to the host stand, I said, “You know, I know this job seems like nothing to you, because you were hired simply because your grandfather owns the place, but for some of us, this money is important.”
Guess which one of us got fired for “harassing another employee…”
Pride is important because, like me, many LGBTQ people have experienced real inequality that isn’t fair and isn’t right. Pride events give them a space to tell stories and discuss experiences with others in a safe space.
Depression, Anxiety, Anger, and Fear
Rates of depression and anxiety run high in the LGBTQ community. And anger about the past, the fear for the future linger for us all. For example, my current roommate in New York City, one of America’s most liberal cities, is a Trump supporter.
I have to hear him talk to all of his friends in our living room about how annoying gay people are and how “they’re always looking for attention.” He also said he supports the idea of companies being able to refuse service to LGBTQ people. He even told his friends how he thinks it’s gross and wrong when guys “act too gay.”
Now, listen to me…I never would have moved into this place had I known this beforehand. But when I visited the apartment before I moved in, the questions of “Who did you vote for in 2016” or “Do you find gay people gross?” never came up. This NYC for fuck sakes! I didn’t think I had to ask questions like that. But guess what, unfortunately when you’re LGBTQ, you do. Even in 2019.
We don’t get to blindly trust our peers the way straight people do. We don’t get to walk into situations assuming that people won’t hate us. We don’t even get to hold hands in public without the entire world staring us down.
AND THAT IS WHY PRIDE IS SO IMPORTANT. Because the LGBTQ community does not yet have equality.
We don’t yet have safety.
We don’t yet have peaceful lives.
PRIDE is to help us stay sane. It’s for us to feel worthwhile, to feel accepted, and to feel a part of something.
Thank you for reading.