Still Standing: Celebrating Pride When You Don’t Feel Like It
I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what I want to say about Pride this year, or whether or not I need to say anything at all. The truth is that I’ve been wallowing a bit lately, specifically about what my life would look like if the current state of our world didn’t feel so bleak. With climate change, impending war, reproductive rights restrictions, it can feel like every day comes with a new wound, a new barrage of thoughtless comments, and injustices to deal with.
As someone who cares a lot about my writing, this often means thinking about how much more I could accomplish if I didn’t have to deal with the daily awfulness that comes from witnessing the rise of public acts of homophobia, racism, and sexism.
Of course I recognize how privileged I am. I can pass as straight, and I am lucky enough to call two really special cities home. New York and Los Angeles can be more inclusive than most places in the United States. However, over the past four years, it doesn’t always feel that way. This year has been particularly tough with random moments of aggression. As I was leaving the local grocery store in my normally very warm neighborhood, a passerby called me something incredibly racist and sexist. Recently, a Pride flag was burned outside of a gay bar near where I live.
While moments like these are rough, what stuck out this time was the fact that, when I got home, it was difficult for me to focus on anything else. I was exhausted from the experience. An encounter which only took about 30 seconds ended up wiping me out for the rest of the day.
And I’m one of the lucky ones! There are people who are dealing with oppression based on class, education, gender identity, and disability who have to deal with so much more than I do.
One of the things that people tend not to factor into their understanding of the reality of inequality is the amount of emotional energy it takes just to get through the day. That moment of racism (even a casual one) takes time to process and move past. Living as someone different in this world means having a lot of baggage to carry, whether I am carrying the weight of something that happened to me, something that happened to a friend, or something I have heard happen on the news.
As reports of hate crimes are rising in New York and the Trump administration is rolling back Obama era legislation, just getting through each day seems to be the best thing we can do. But I’m still stuck on the question of what we could be capable of if we didn’t have to bear the staggering weight of injustices that most everyone else refuses to acknowledge?
There’s been a lot of talk about what Stonewall 50- World Pride is supposed to be on the anniversary of a riot led by brave trans women of color putting their lives on the line, specifically on whether or not it is appropriate for the leather community to attend or for there to be so much corporate commercialization of the event. These are really important conversations to be having, and I’m glad that they’re being had. But my mind hasn’t really been there. Instead, I’ve been thinking about what Pride represents for me.
My first Pride took place on the morning after the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I had only been out for a couple years at that point, and it was the first year that I felt ready to reach out and be a part of the community. In a lot of ways, it ended up being a funeral march, and I realized that being a part of this community means feeling and facing adversity together.
Over the past fifty years, New York Pride has grown to become something celebratory, which I think is wonderful. In world that flattens our difference, I think it is important to have a time to celebrate our complexity in the varied lives we lead. But I haven’t been feeling very celebratory. I’ve been feeling tired.
I was pretty conflicted when deciding whether or not I should go to the big Stonewall 50- World Pride event this year. I could just picture the amount of difficulty it would be to get downtown, to brave the heat and the inevitable Bad Experience that always seems to happen when so many people gather in one place (DC Pride’s recent active shooter scare for example). More importantly, I wasn’t quite sure what the point of my attending would be. I normally do tabling work for a non-profit I volunteer for, but this year there isn’t going to be a table. And I don’t want to go with friends and end up being a dampener their celebration because I don’t feel like wearing glitter this year.
Yet, after remembering my first Pride and the importance of experiencing things together, I’ve decided to go anyway. I’m still not sure how I will feel when I attend, but I ended up realizing that it’s okay to have mixed feelings.
Our lives are going to be filled with good and bad days. We can’t sit around waiting for the bad days to end before we begin our lives because of the possibility the bad days will never really go away. Addressing those bad days together with our community will always be better than addressing them alone.
It’s important to take time to mourn the parts of ourselves that are lost because of what we sacrifice to survive. However, it is equally important to recognize in the face of violence, societal inequality, homophobia (both external and internalized), racism, and sexism, we’ve created our chosen families. We’re resilient and we exist despite all the people who want us to go away.
We’re still breathing and singing and writing and living. And whether or not it feels like a win in the moment—it is, and we should take the time to acknowledge that and celebrate it.
So that’s my theme for Pride month this year.
And since I just went to see the truly splendid Rocketman, this is going to be my theme song.
Tiffany Babb is a New York based writer. Her poetry has been published in Argot Magazine, Third Wednesday, and is forthcoming in Cardiff Review. Her comics criticism has been published in PanelxPanel, The MNT, and Women Write About Comics. You can find more of her work at www.tiffanybabb.com