Defining what Pride means at a time when we need to come together most
(Warning: The following contains a homosexual slur that may offend some readers. After consideration, we decided to keep it in, in all its bigoted, toxic ignorance, to shed a light on the very real hatred that still exists out there and the need to continue the battle against intolerance.)
This past Memorial Day weekend, Rick’s Repair Shop in Tallahassee, Fla., had a sign out front reading:
“VETERANS GET A DAY
FAGS AND CHILD MOLESTORS GET A MONTH
I wonder if Rick knew that May is National Military Appreciation Month (designated so in 1999, the same year Pride Month was recognized)? Or that June tries to bring awareness to other important topics by also being PTSD Awareness Month, Gun Violence Awareness Month, Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and Immigrant Heritage Month?
This was a few days after a traffic sign in Orlando was tampered with and altered to display the phrase, “KILL ALL GAYS” as people drove by. Notice how Florida is a through line in both? Sometimes it’s easy to feel like we’re safe from these events because we’re geographically far from them, but this harmful and dangerous anti-gay ideology is omnipresent. We live in a congressional district headed by Lauren Boebert, who is vocally crude about being against the LGBTQ community and The Equality Act. This act would make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal in all 50 states. It is currently illegal in only 31 states.
The shooting at Club Q, a gay bar in Colorado Springs, left five dead and more than 30 others wounded in November 2022. They were harmed by someone who was taught to have such a hatred of their own queerness that they needed to harm others who shared this aspect with themselves. In Durango, there have been historic and recent accounts of people taking down the Pride flags that are posted along Main Ave. by The Alliance for Diversity during the month of June. A friend and fellow drag performer was recently threatened online by a stranger locally. “I’m going to kill u bitch,” the lone message said.
“WHY?” Rick asks. We have Pride to celebrate our differences and remind people, including ourselves, that we are still here despite hardships that affect us, like the AIDS epidemic, conversion camps, high suicide rates, danger from bigoted violence, and the religious and societal pressure to stay closeted.
We have Pride because of the folks who fought back one warm summer evening in 1969 at a small dive bar in New York City – The Stonewall Inn. At this time, NYC had laws that required men and women to wear clothes that matched the gender on their ID. Sound familiar? With this law, The Stonewall Inn was raided June 28, as it had been many times before. However, on this particular evening, the patrons fought back – starting the Stonewall Riots. There are conflicting stories about who was the first to fight back – however, the names of legendary queer icons fill the air: Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie and Marsha P. Johnson.
I am thankful for the people, organizations and businesses that will be working together to bring Pride to Durango this year. It feels like they are “fighting back” against the dangerous rhetoric and acts of today. Aria PettyOne will be putting on several Pride events the fourth week of June, including a dance party hosted by Salacious Behavior, another fabulous drag performer.
Ska Brewing will also be releasing its 3rd annual Pride Beer on June 9 – “House of Maize.” A collaboration between local community members and Ska, its name hearkens back to the “Houses” that were part of New York City’s underground Ballroom culture in the 1980s. Houses acted as found families and were mainly composed of Black and Latinx members. These groups would then compete for prizes and money at Ballroom competitions. At those competitions, they would be admired and celebrated for the very thing society ostracized them for – their queerness.
To contrast against the harsh words at the beginning of this article, I wanted to share what pride means to me. I came out of the closet nearly 16 years ago, shortly after high school. Although this was a huge step for me, there were “clothes” in there that became a part of my identity – sweaters of shame, pants of secrecy and shirts of inadequacy. These clothes moved with me as I grew older, in a suitcase of twisted sentimental value. During my last relationship, I had nearly forgotten about them. Little did I know they were stored in a dark, dusty corner – anticipating the day they would be worn again.
When I moved into a new period of my life, I reopened this case and tried the clothes on. At first it felt like I was hugging an old friend. But I soon found that the clothes never did and never would fit me. They laid on the floor just outside the closet, for months. However, through the self-assurance that Pride has gifted me, I finally began to see their wear. After years of holding onto these items, I realized the only place they belonged was in the trash. I believe that coming out is not just about leaving the closet, but about being brave enough to go through all of its items, both precious and ignored, and trying your best to clear it out until all you have left is pride – and love.
– Doug Gonzalez