Pride and Progress
How does our youth fit in to the contemporary LGBT movement?
We live in an exciting time, a hot bed of social change. The timeline of Human Rights development has accelerated quickly and continues to gain momentum. LGBTQ persons in many parts of the developed world are the latest group to benefit from human rights activism. Conditions for LGBTQ persons are improving. With every legal gain and Pride event, activism continues to strive to equal the social playing field. The question in so many of our minds, in light of so much recent social change for LGBTQ persons is: How do our LGBTQ Youth view their experience in the world compared to individuals who grew up Pre-Stonewall era?
What is the Pre-Stonewall era you ask? And, how did LGBTQ rights come to be? For some, the 1960s in America was a dangerous and hostile environment, especially for LGBTQ persons. They were routinely harassed and subjected to violence by not only the general public but also police. In a constant effort to stay safe, LGBTQ persons created underground establishments like the Stonewall Inn where they could socialize in hiding. Gays were actively sought out by police and their establishments were routinely raided. There was no safe place for LGBTQ persons. On the morning of June 28th 1969, patrons of the Stonewall Inn, tired of the continuous police violence decided to fight back, inciting what would become known as the Stonewall Riots and the launch of the Gay Rights Movement.
On the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on June 28th 1970, the first Gay Pride parade was born. The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee organized more than a dozen gay organizations and took to the streets chanting: “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.” Thousands of anxious and fearful LGBTQ persons courageously stepped off the curb into the street, into public sight and joined the march known today as the Gay Pride Parade.
The first Pride march in 1970 was marked with much tension and anxiety. Participants were fearful that marching would make them a mark for violence or arrest. LGBTQ persons worried identifying themselves would affect their employment and expose them to overt discrimination like being alienated from their friends and family. LGBTQ youth participating in Pride parades today still harbour some of those same anxieties but when interviewed express significantly less fear of violence and marginalization and many positive feelings like feeling free, proud, comfortable, accepted and hopeful.
The last Sunday in June is celebrated as “Gay Pride Day.” Over the years however, Gay Pride Day has evolved into a month full of events, celebrations, commemorations, demonstrations and observance. June is now synonymous with Pride Month, a month where LGBTQ persons positively stand against discrimination and promote their visibility, rights and dignity.
Visibility has been the biggest tactic of the Gay Rights movement but also it is the greatest indicator of success. The ‘coming out’ movement has resulted in LGBTQ persons no longer being hidden in shadows but instead being represented in mainstream media. Youth today get to identify with gay public figures such as athletes, television characters, and politicians. They have reference points for what it is like to be a same-sex married couple or a same-sex couple with children. They no longer hold the singular public view of being a deviant or perverse group but a part of a productive and respectable society. LGBTQ Youth get to benefit from the social message that gay is OK and enjoy overall better self-esteem because of it. Seeing, in this case, is believing.
LGBTQ youth in many parts of the developed world are expressing positive and hopeful outlooks regarding their current status in society and their future. All of the hard fought gains of the Gay rights movement to date have created a world that is more inclusive and less hostile toward LGBTQ persons. Youth today are enjoying better rights and freedoms and social attitudes resulting in overall less marginalization. It is fair to say that true equality has not been achieved as of yet but we are well on our way. And, the way there is to continue showing our PRIDE. Pride today means activism, progress, hope and, sweetest of all, celebration. Happy Pride everyone!