Keeping in the spirit of celebrating LGBT Pride month, over the weekend I watched a great documentary called Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride, and then attended an ACLU/SC sponsored production of the brilliant one-woman play, "No Word In Guyanese For Me." The documentary examines the history of Gay Pride celebrations as a movement and highlights the role Pride events have played in advancing the LGBT community's rights. At the other end of the spectrum, the play explores the life of a closeted, lesbian South American Muslim who finds that there is no word in her native language to describe who she is.
LGBT Pride celebrations started in 1970--the year after the Stonewall Rebellion--in a few select cities, including Los Angeles. A few short years later in 1978, Gilbert Baker created the multi-colored Pride flag we still wave during Pride week each year. Before law school, I directed the organization in Nashville, Tennessee that produced the annual Pride celebration and parade during the latter part of the 90s. So it was interesting to see a film set such events in the broader context of the international LGBT civil rights movement. Over the years, I certainly heard complaints that Pride was just an excuse to throw a big party for the weekend.
But "The Politics of Pride" demonstrates the benefits of such parades and celebrations, while "No Words" serves as a vivid reminder of the harm done by not being able to live openly and with Pride. It is difficult to quantify the power of showing a local community that LGBT people do live there, particularly in places like Macon, Georgia; Warsaw, Poland; or Guyana. Indeed, those who try to deny that we exist can no longer do so once confronted with images of us on TV and in the news. And someone who thinks he or she is the only LGBT person in his or her community learns differently by seeing our public, vibrantly-colored presence as we parade through the streets. This just a snapshot of what a Pride event can do for a community.
For many people, participating in a Pride celebration may be their first public participation in the LGBT community. Such was my own experience back in 1993, when I attended my first Pride parade in Nashville (the same event where I first became a card-carrying member of the ACLU). That day was my entree into a life of activism that has continued since. Anyone who questions the necessity of continuing to produce LGBT Pride celebrations should take the time to watch "The Politics of Pride" and should certainly go see "No Words." Then come out and join the LGBT community at one of the many celebrations taking place this Pride season. It’s certainly easy to find a Pride event in your area--InterPride lists more than 150 worldwide Pride events taking place this year. We hope you will come visit the ACLU/SC's booth at the L.A. Pride Festival over the weekend of June 12-13 as we continue to make and celebrate the LGBT community's history and the role the ACLU/SC has played in shaping it. Get Busy, Get Equal!