Op-ed: On Pride and Progress
It’s a word that inspires many of us to think of parades, rainbow flags, music, friends, and good times. Yet I believe we sometimes don’t spend enough time considering the true definition of term, the reason we refer to the season as Pride in the first place. There’s that kind of pride everywhere you look this year, and even perhaps in some previously unanticipated places.
When Janet Mock stood up to Piers Morgan’s rude and invasive questions about her transition and trans women united behind her in sisterhood and solidarity, that was pride.
When Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera refused to answer Katie Couric’s questions about the state of their genitalia, that was pride.
When, after decades of being basically ignored by mainstream media, the trans community’s biggest media star and celebrity spokesperson appears on the cover of Time magazine, I for one can’t imagine being prouder than I am when I consider how unlikely that would have been even just a year ago.
We feel that pride every time we see yet another barrier to same-sex marriage fall, as we watch happy couples rush to legally marry.
We felt that pride as we saw Janet Mock’s autobiography, Redefining Realness, hit the New York Times best-seller list.
We even felt that pride when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed in the U.S. Senate last November with 10 Republicans signing on, all the while knowing full well that there was little if any chance the bill would get a vote in the House.
It’s not just about the parties and the celebrations, it’s about an ever-rising level of pride LGBT people are taking in our personal lives, in our workplaces, in the media, and in so many more ways as time goes on.
It’s about demanding to be seen and treated as equals, in our communities, in our personal relationships, and on the job. It’s about refusing to be marginalized, disrespected, disparaged, or taken for granted.
It’s about speaking out as a community when we feel we’ve been wronged, and it’s about knowing that when we do speak out, we now have the media reach to ensure that voices representing the entire LGBT community will be heard in the mainstream of American culture and politics, even if not always heeded.
It’s about refusing to sit down and shut up when we’re told to, be it by politicians, talk show hosts, or celebrity drag queens.
It’s about finally being able to see that light at the end of the tunnel in the distance, even though we know we still have many miles to go before we reach it.
It’s about knowing, with a certainty those of us who have been around a while have never been able to feel before, that we’re winning, that the tide has turned and the culture is moving in the direction we need it to.
It’s about knowing that one day, not so far in the future as it once seemed, bigotry and discrimination against LGBT Americans will be perceived with the same kind of embarrassment and shame we feel today when we remember how America treated its nonwhite, non-Christian, and nonmale citizens in the past.
Most of all, it’s about truly embracing the essence of pride, the refusal to accept the imposition of a lower cultural and legal status than that of the straight, white, and cisgender majority. It’s about demanding the very same level of respect that majority takes for granted.
Pride is worthy of celebration and no matter how far we progress we should never forget how far we’ve come. Our yearly celebrations should remind us that our freedom is not free, it must demanded, fought for, and then defended, because as our history with racial and ethnic discrimination teaches us, there will always be some people who want to take those freedoms away from us.
As Pride comes to a close, let’s take a moment to raise a glass, toast our heroes, and celebrate the amazing progress we’re making. Party, celebrate, enjoy this proud moment in the sunlight of American culture, but then, let’s get right back to it. We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us.
REBECCA JURO is a journalist and radio host who writes about media for Advocate.com. Her work has been published by The Bilerico Project, The Huffington Post, Washington Blade, and Gay City News. The Rebecca Juro Show streams live Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern.