In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, I finally understood what Pride really means
I’m afraid of being attacked at Pride. There, I said it. Never has it been a more fearful time to be a member of the Western world, and in light of the Orlando mass shooting last week, a member of the LGBT community. While the attack at Paris’ Bataclan theatre last year was painful, nothing has hurt like the extinguishing of LGBT lives at Pulse nightclub last week. I cried for those who lost their lives and their families and friends, but I also cried for me.
I didn’t know why I was crying at first. You hear about tragedies all over the world every day. Then the reason dawned on me. It was because it could have been me. And with that realisation came an anger. Never before have I felt so oppressed as a gay man by those who refuse to accept and tolerate what has become a significant portion of my identity.
Initially I didn’t get Pride. I felt embarrassed by the people in the parade who were flamboyant, loud and scantily clad. I didn’t want my ‘gayness’ to be associated with that. In recent times I’ve come to realise that this was a homophobia that I directed at myself – internalised homophobia. I didn’t get gay Pride because I didn’t want to get it.
When I first came out at eighteen, I saw Pride as a celebration of everything I actively strived not to be. However, as I have matured, grown more comfortable in myself and have a group of LGBT friends that I surround myself with, I no longer care about being flamboyant and sticking out from the norm. I learned that Pride is a celebration. A celebration of the right to be different, to act how I want to act, to dress how I want to dress, to be me.
Pride’s True Meaning
At least I thought I had learned what Pride was. That is, until this week. This week the true meaning of Pride has finally hit home. Pride is not just a celebration of LGBT identity, it is also a fight for the right to be LGBT.
The incident in Orlando is so hard hitting, and so close to my own heart because I am every one of those forty-nine people killed in that gay club. That was me and my boyfriend on a night out with our friends who have become our second family. Or at least it could have been. And that’s why it hurts so much. These people were killed because they were in a queer space, that was meant to be safe.
The shooter specifically targeted the LGBT community for reasons we may never know. However, it looks likely that he suffered from internalised homophobia. His religion teaches that homosexuality is wrong, and he was raised in a society in which Pride is still necessary, because the LGBT community are still outside the norm.
I was lucky enough to find a group of friends that accept and love me for who I am, who can see that I am more than my sexual identity and who love it when I burst into a campy rendition of a Disney song (ok that last one might be a bit of a stretch), but not everyone gets that opportunity. Without those friends, I would not have come to understand that Pride is not a parade to get embarrassed about. Yes It is a celebration, but Pride is also a fight for acceptance, it is a necessity to remove the stigmatisation of homosexuality in society, and to combat homophobia from within the gay community and without.
That’s why I’ll be marching at Pride this year, even though I am afraid that at any moment some crazed gunman might make an appearance and I’ll have to run for cover, however irrational that fear may be. I’m marching for me, for my LGBT family, and for a future where someone coming to terms with their sexuality doesn’t get embarrassed by Pride.
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