Fifty years ago, Pride Season certainly didn’t start out as a time for celebration. A brick thrown, countless arrests, fights in the streets that lasted for several days; a march; a daring proclamation of equality as a human right; and now – events and celebrations around the globe. I don’t know that our predecessors could have foreseen the impact they’ve had.
June 28 will mark 50 years since the Stonewall riots broke out. The riots lasted several days and still stand out as one of the most historic events our nation has seen. With many things in life, once we step forward into something that allows us to breath our authenticity it is nearly impossible to step back.
As the riots cooled, it was apparent that things would never go back as they were. From that single event a momentum was created that led to the founding of official organizations and activist groups meant to create safety for those who identify outside the heteronormative status quo.
The organized march that followed a year later was nothing like the glitzy parade and park full of vendors we see today. It was everyday people, hurt and angry, fighting for their civil rights. While thousands turned out to march, an equal amount of people turned out to protest.
Now, today, the way so many people zealously express themselves is tangible. Flags fly generously in representation of Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Gay, BDSM, Polyamorous, Races, Ages, Asexual, and the list goes on and on. Regardless of anyone’s gender, sexual orientation, race, relationship configuration, dress, any of it. Everyone celebrates everyone and everyone celebrates themselves. “Happy Pride!” is the greeting of the day and it is easy to feel a bit Utopian.
But somewhere in all that blissful Utopia it is easy to forget just how hard of a fight it was to get to this point – or how much we still have to fight for. So this Pride season, let us give thanks to those who have paved, and who are paving, the way. Without whom, we wouldn’t be able to gear up in bold, blatant celebration.
Thank you to our predecessors. Thank you to those who were too angry to tolerate another day of inequality. Thank you for those who threw rocks and rioted in the streets because they knew they had value.
Thank you to those who have gone to jail, serving time for acts which are consensual expressions of love. Thank you to allies willing to leave the safety of blending in to fight for the rights of those who are unable fight for themselves.
Thank you to those who give shelter and food to the gay and transgender youth – many who find themselves on the street because their families of origin are too concerned with their sexual or gender identities to give them the love and support they need.
Thank you to those who brave publicly holding hands with the person they love, knowing the very harmless act could have them arrested, beaten up, or both. Thank you to those who dance with someone of the same sex. Thank you to those who follow their hearts and risk being discovered their roommate is really their partner.
Thank you to those who serve(d) in the armed forces, living day in and day out in a body that is not aligned with their gender, or hiding a same sex attraction – serving a country that creates laws set to destroy them.
Thank you to those who raise children that heteronormative families won’t adopt. Thank you to those who create organizations and advocacy groups to protect the rights and safety of marginalized communities. Thank you to those who push for legislation that acknowledges who we choose to be sexual with, how we choose to express our gender or sexuality, and who we choose to love, are human rights.
Thank you to those who by their very existence flip off the world around them by choosing to express themselves in a manner that serves their own authenticity and not the comfort of those around them. For every act that leads to more equality, more understanding, more acceptance, more knowledge – Thank You.
To our youth, you have some incredible examples to follow and look to. More than likely I won’t be around to see what the next 50 years brings on our Pride front, but I am confident there will be more strides of pride.
To all those making a mark and moving us forward – Thank You.
Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a Clinical Sexologist and maintains private therapy practices in both LA and SLC. She can be reached at [email protected]