Words by Christopher Bernhardt. Image by BA Ciccolella.
“What does Pride mean to you?” That is the usual question and marketing scheme that most, if not all, of the LGBTQ community is asked during the Summer months, specifically the month of June. For many of us, that answer varies. For some, Pride is the celebrations and the parades and the parties that mark a right of passage for them finding and becoming their true self. For others, Pride is the time of year where the community normally feels more acknowledged and seen. In recent history, Pride has been a time where the LGBTQ community and their allies can come together as one and acknowledge how much our society has changed and grown. But this year was different, when the world shut down in March, everything came screeching to a halt.
As we continued to quarantine and started to figure out ways to live with the new normal that is our society, it became clear that Pride would be different this year and the changes to come in our world could impact how we celebrate for many years to come. Without the parades and the celebrations, Pride was able to take on a different meaning this year, one that was based on history, on where we came from, and made us see how far we still have to go.
For me, this year allowed me to focus on the beginning. On the people who came before me and the changes that they fought for to help create what we have today. The injustices and the wrongs that a throw of a single brick helped to shatter, and how these sacrifices continue to impact who and what we are. The pioneers of Stonewall are the “forefathers” of our modern-day Pride celebrations. They are the ones who were the first to say, “I’ve had enough”, to stand up for who they are, and take Pride in the life that they were living. They were tired of hiding in the closet and being persecuted for being who they were. With all the things going on, focusing on our history seemed more poignant and important this year than previously. In the past few years, we had come so far, with marriage equality and advances in protections for the LGBTQ community. However, with changes in legislation and the events surrounding the Black Lives Matter protest all around the world, it felt like there was a bigger and more important impact. A reason to understand what Pride means, and why it is important for each and every one of us to let our voices be heard, and to stand up in solidarity with everyone who has ever faced or is currently facing an injustice against who they are because of their sex, skin color, or sexual orientation.
At this same time, I realized there were still things that I was, and still do, take for granted. The supportive family that I have that has always accepted me for who I am. Not having to worry about being thrown out of the house because I was different, or loved someone who society did not think was okay for me to love. Traumas that I have not had to face, diseases I have not had to fight against, and not having to come to terms with finding a home where I am finally loved. But that is what the true meaning of Pride is. That there is a community of people who support each other for who we truly are. Finding our chosen family and knowing that these are the people that will love us no matter what, and be by our side no matter what happens. This community; our family, that supports us and tells us that it is okay to be who we are and to love the skin that we are in. All while we are finding ourselves and learning to love who we are.
In a time that has been full of so much uncertainty and not having typical Pride celebrations, finding a way to focus on the true meaning of Pride for me has been the best way to focus on my Pride: the Pride in my community, the Pride in myself, and the Pride in every person in my real and chosen families. With this, I challenge everyone to find and talk about your Pride. What does Pride mean to you, and how have you found your way to celebrate Pride without the parties and the parades? Let’s all work together to make sure that Pride stays alive within us all.