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Andrew Belonsky: A Brief Sketch On Gay Pride

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June 17, 2008

When I think of gay pride, I don’t think of gay people. Okay, well, that’s not true. I do think of gay people. My mind runs wild with bedazzled drag queens with feathers in their hair and the police officer and a group of leather-clad gals on bikes. There are parents with children, too, and a few pets subjected to the colorful whim of their celebratory owners. I see the pious set, scores of teachers and teens whose parents may not know they’re so proud. But, more than all those communities, that proverbial melting pot, I see America: a nation built on the revolutionary idea that citizens should live as individuals, free of tyranny.

The men and women who forged this nation spoke up against oppression. Their historic bravery knew no bounds. These rebellious colonialists’ yearning exploded into the American Revolution and helped spread liberal democracy cross the globe. That war for independence birthed revolutions the world over — and sowed the seeds for more at home. So, too, did the Stonewall Rebellion.

Decades of alienation, miserable taunts and widespread oppression proved to be too much for those frustrated men, women and drag queens. Oh, yes, the sparkles did fly that night, June 28, 1969, unleashing a wave of gay rights across the States that would inspire fear in some of the more uptight masses. People came out left, right and center to say, “Hey, I’m a homo. What of it?” The revolutionary gay pride movement had begun. (I say revolutionary because certainly gay pride existed prior to the uprising of 1969, but Stonewall marked the “big gay bang.”) As with the American revolution, Stonewall inspired action across the globe, inspiring gay communities to show themselves. These brave souls refused to concede to the closet. And now, nearly four decades later, gay pride movements and parades exist on every inhabitable continent.

Unfortunately, as with the democratic bug, not everyone felt or feels the same-sex love. As I write this, 85 nations on this globe have legislation against gay people. Pride parades are forbidden or, if the police are feeling polite, strongly discouraged. These gay people are not free to live their lives. In fact, countless LGBT people fear for their lives — abroad and at home. Only 13 American states include sexuality and gender identity in their non-discrimination acts. Thirty-eight officially ban gay marriage. Hate crimes legislation remains woefully inadequate. Yet, despite the at-times discouraging odds and threats of violence, gay and straight activists remain true to their progressive cause: equal rights for the queer family. But, of course, the gay pride movement is, at its heart, about liberal democracy: the very dream that birthed this nation of ours.

Gay pride has always been and will continue to be about the fight for liberal democracy. We yearn for an all-inclusive nation free of coercion, where power’s dispersed from head to toe — and sometimes head again. LGBT people are a part of every single sect of society. If any one doubts me, I urge them to open their eyes at the next gay pride showing. We are everywhere and we are essential.

If the United States and other liberal democracies are going to toot their own horn, they should include any and all the letters of the alphabet. To me, fighting for gay pride remains one of the most courageous, inspiring, necessary and patriotic thing one can do.