I am in a unique position as a major shareholder and executive at equalpride, the publisher of The Advocate, to participate in several major Pride events across America. Just this year, I have been to Miami Beach Pride, Provincetown Pride, Washington, D.C., Pride, New York Pride, and most recently in Europe, Amsterdam Pride. Reflecting on these amazing experiences, it began to quickly dawn on me that they all had one thing in common: they were peaceful.
Despite the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and their “listless vessels” in state legislatures, along with the steady drumbeat of hate crimes against our most marginalized and more than 500 pieces of recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, the largely uninterrupted nature of Pride events around the country indicates that much of America is, at the very least, ambivalent toward LGBTQ+ people. If there was rampant hate, it was not very visible to me or others at these Pride events. In fact, the revelry from non-LGBTQ+ people attending these events was as equally joyous as those in our community.
The Pew Foundation found recently that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that same-sex relationships are good for society. Despite a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ headlines, a supermajority of Americans, per Gallup, are supportive of equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, from marriage to adoption to workplace equality. And despite the legal saber rattling of the anti-equality wing of the Supreme Court and near hourly anti-LGBTQ+ stories on Fox News, the vocal minority of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic Americans (thankfully) mostly stays at home and expresses their xenophobia behind the safety of their keyboards.
And there’s a surge in the younger population feeling safe and loved enough to identify as their authentic selves, spurring millions of parents, family, friends, and coworkers to support these brave individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that more than one in four American high schoolers, or 26 percent, identify as LGBTQ+. And just before this study, Gallup found that one in five Gen Zers identify as LGBTQ+. On top of tens of millions of young Americans identifying as not straight, there is a supermajority of Americans who support and want equality for them. This was evident in the joy and love on almost every face I saw at these Pride events — both community and allies.
From Provincetown to WeHo, NYC to D.C., and many points in between, the atmosphere at these Pride festivals was 100 percent love. People of all types, from younger newly out gays to their elders who’ve endured so much for this moment, were ecstatic. Allies were there not just to show their support but lend their excitement and determination to keeping our momentum going. People everywhere festooned their clothes and faces with rainbows, danced in the streets and on floats, and kissed strangers. We were united in a spirit of love that appeared to drown out the very small crowds of haters who converged.
And while my experiences were largely confined to large city celebrations, there are instances this year, and certainly around the world, where Pride events and other related celebrations were disrupted. These tend to be heavily conservative areas where strength in protest can be found in numbers. Cowards and bullies tend to flock together. We have to look no further than Florida, which joined three other states, Tennessee, Montana, and Texas, to pass laws or policies that restrict or outright ban certain drag performances. Not surprisingly, events in these states, like in St. Cloud, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and Bozeman, Mont., have seen more organized, hateful efforts to disrupt or threaten events causing organizers to scale back or cancel planned celebrations.
There is no doubt we need to help our fellow beleaguered states overcome the hate. In the meantime, the majority of America’s LGBTQ+ population live in places that experienced mostly love and peace this summer. I hope others in the LGBTQ+ community share my optimism gained from your own Pride celebration experiences. This truly shows the power of love and a determination by a vast majority of Americans to have equality for all. Take pride!
Michael Dru Kelley is a shareholder and executive at equalpride, publisher of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, Plus, Pride.com, and operator of The Advocate Channel.