Photo by Svet foto

Pride in the Face of Fear

Working in LGBTQ media makes you keenly aware of every piece of bad news for the LGBTQ community. Homophobia and transphobia have never died; in all the six years I’ve spent working in LGBTQ media, it has never escaped me that there is always more negative news to report than good news, with the ratio becoming more and more tilted toward negative as the years pass. This year, that knowledge is particularly difficult to cope with. Over 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in the U.S. this year, and 34 have been passed into law. Target has not only pulled Pride merchandise from shelves, but some of the queer artists commissioned for that merchandise have allegedly received no compensation for their work. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security just released a public service announcement warning Pride organizers of foreign terrorist attacks, and both domestic terrorism and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric are on the rise. Zionist conservatives and liberals alike use the LGBTQ community as an excuse for genocide, and over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed. An Atlanta police officer murdered Lyft driver Reginald Folks because he thought Folks was a member of a gay fraternity trying to recruit him.
As Pride month begins, a question on my mind is: how do we celebrate? What does Pride look like when the world turns its back on us? Fear weighs heavily on my heart, less so for myself, a straight-passing cis person in Atlanta, and more for my trans siblings, LGBTQ Palestinians, my Black queer friends, and those living in cities and towns where safety from bigoted violence is less easy to find than in Atlanta. If I am wracked with fear, what must they be feeling?
In the words of John Lennon, “When we are afraid, we pull back from life.” When we operate from fear, we close ourselves off from love, from acceptance, from openness, from living the life we know we want to live. This fear is intentionally wrought by those who are afraid of us, who wish to find company in misery by trying to shut us off from the freedom of fearlessness, of safety, of comfort. They want us scared. We cannot give them what they want.
As fear tries to find a permanent home in my body, I am reminded of Stonewall. I harken back to a time when being gay was a crime, putting you at risk of state-sanctioned violence at any moment simply for being who you are, and the subsequent revolt against it. I think of Michael Hardwick, the gay man caught having sex with his partner after police raided his home and he was arrested for sodomy — and who eventually fought back against the law in court.
How frightening must that existence have been? And yet LGBTQ people still persisted. They lived openly when they could and fought back when they had to. Pride then was what it has always been: an insistence of our humanity. We are here, we are going to live how we wish, and we will not be frightened away. This Pride month, the same message rings true. No matter how much bigots rally against us, we will always fight harder, and we will always prevail.