Recovering Our Pride


Laura Flanders: Many places around the world are celebrating LGBTQ pride this month. And lots of them have become a fairly routine part of the calendar, until the deadly attack on the Orlando gay nightclub. In a tragic way that attack has given this year's event some of its old significance.

Pride in the streets wasn't always a ho-hum thing. In my experience, early pride marches were defiant, riotous affairs, often complete with mini riots. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people striding out of the closet and into the streets. It was brave, dramatic deal. We’d boo the bigotry of the church and the state and risk arrest over AIDS and murder.  

And then many of us who marched in the ‘80s started to skip it. I did. The monster floats had became so large and loud and the people’s banners so few and scrawny. Commerce seemed to have edged out community. And then there was the year that US service people led the parade, the morning after a deadly US bombing strike on Baghdad, Iraq.

I didn’t feel pride that year. I felt confused. Had liberation Pride lost out to piece-of-the-pie Pride such that now we were celebrating our place in war and killing?

That revolution I found hard to dance to.

I didn’t marry but I did couple up. I started missing Pride and not thinking much about it. But a few months ago a friend asked for my thoughts for for a book she was compiling called Pride and Joy.

The gifts I’ve received from the Pride parades are many. They’re present in the freedom I feel holding my lover’s hand and kissing – just about anywhere. In the image I have in my head a of a massive rainbow of lives flowing down Fifth Avenue in New York, and the glimpse I got then, and still see from time to time, of a rambunctious grand queer festival of fun and fight. That’s seductive enough to overcome haters’ fears and smart enough to embrace all our movements.  

At it’s best, Pride is a chance to meet and mourn and resurrect the parts of ourselves we keep cooped-up. Also, to practice stepping off our safe private places on the pavement and into the mad helter-skelter on the street.

I marched before and maybe I’ll march again - to be reminded of the joy that is in the mix of singular, special people in a cavorting, common crowd. Defiant, brave and dancing; different, together.  There’s still plenty – plenty – to mourn, and more to fight for and to win – and we could all of us do with a lot more dancing. Happy pride everyone!

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