Pride can be a powerful thing. It’s a terribly strong emotion. You can be proud about any number of things in your life—from your nationality to your ethnicity, your gender to your sexuality. You can even be proud about things that you get to decide and control: such as your religion or an adopted home.
There’s no doubt that pride can also be dangerous. It’s often blinding and narrows one’s view. But for those people that are open to understanding and appreciating other cultures, pride can be powerful and useful. Personally I’m proud of many things about my life. Sure, there is much to be improved upon, but there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of pride in who you are and what you do. Pride in an over-saturated extreme can be dangerous, but so can most things.
Why Gay Pride Matters
All this public thought about pride comes about because of some recent discussions I’ve had regarding gay pride. What is gay pride and why is it important? Well, honestly I think it means something a bit different to each and every queer individual. Most publicly, gay pride takes place in the month of June (declared LGBT Pride month) in the form of festivals and parades. That’s because of the historical June 1969 Stonewall riots (a defining moment in gay history).
Many communities across the world celebrate gay pride during the summertime with cultural festivals, street parades, parties and public speeches. From Dallas to Toronto, San Francisco to Amsterdam—even Uganda—gay pride festivals are often a place for supporters to publicly come together and celebrate. Why does all this matter, though? Why is gay pride still important? In a time and age when gay rights are increasingly becoming a reality in many nations, gay pride still matters…
Because there’s still more work to be done
This year has been a momentous year for gay rights and so there has been much to celebrate during the 2013 gay pride season. Thirteen (13!) U.S. states now provide equal marriage rights. That’s 13 out of 50. And while the majority of US citizens seem to agree with full equality (according to many recent polls), that’s still a lot of states that are unconstitutionally denying equality. The gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that over 30% of Americans now live in places where gay marriage is legal. Thirty percent is a nice number, but it’s far from equal. These numbers are improving (and improving rapidly) but there’s still work to be done. That’s why gay pride is important. I look at these numbers and think how far things have come (even just in my short lifetime), yet I know there is still a far way to go. Gay pride festivals are a reminder of what’s been done, and a push to keep working toward full equality.
And an annual celebration of the gay rights recently achieved doesn’t set things back, but how I see it — pushes activists onward and forward. It’s often a chance to get inspired and motivated.
Because others can’t always celebrate
Mainstream media has been covering some recent setbacks for gay rights around the world—notably Russia—the past few weeks. With calls of boycotts and front-page news of Russia gay rights abuses, there is much to remember about gay rights around the world. While some countries are quickly marching forward, some are inevitably moving backward.
Most gay pride festivals I’ve been to have been joyous occasions—full of fun and cheer—but many around the world are still very political. There are gay and lesbians fighting for their lives in some places, let alone their equality. Photos from Stockholm’s pride last weekend show people “marching for those that can’t.”
Because sometimes you still need to have fun
Summertime is the time for festivals: music, food, cultural, camping, movie…if there’s something that can be celebrated, there’s almost always a festival for it in the summer. Gay pride is no different and each gay pride I’ve been to has been a unique and different experience from the next. In Tel Aviv earlier this summer, the TLV Gay Film Festival coincided with the pride parade and beach party. International gay-themed films were shown throughout the week, as well as LGBT parties at clubs and on the beach. Together, the pride wasn’t just one big party: but with all the other ongoing events throughout the festival, there were options for just about everyone—gay or straight!
Not to mention the empowering effect of celebrating diversity, life and equality.
Because it’s important to have public support
There’s something really special about seeing straight allies and other supporters at a gay pride event. I’ve got plenty of friends who fully support equality, but all year long…it’s a mostly silent support. Then it’s time for a gay pride parade and suddenly they’re the first ones to suggest marching, rallying or otherwise. That means the world to me. And I suspect for others as well.
I know from my own personal experience, seeing prominent and influential “out” gays and lesbians helped me overcome my own fears. Add in a party where there are so many smiling and supportive people, a week of gay-themed events…and suddenly a regular festival can mean so much more. Pride matters. Maybe not to everyone. But to some. And that’s all you really need.
Read more about gay pride:
- Travel guide for gay pride events around the world on the Hostelbookers website
- Adam Kirk Edgerton’s The Importance of Pride on The Huffington Post
- Gay Pride 2013 stories on My Gay Travel Guide
- Gay backpacking guide on Leave Your Daily Hell with travel tips & more
Have you visited a gay pride event this year? Please share your experiences below. And if you’re interested, follow along on Twitter and Instagram while I celebrate gay pride this weekend in Antwerp during the World Outgames and Antwerp Pride.