- Homosexual men and women still earn less than heterosexual men of similar qualification
- 25-40% of homeless Canadian youth identify as LGBTQ+, and often become homeless due to homophobia from family and friends
- Bisexual and trans people are over-represented among low-income Canadians
- American LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately living in poverty
There are so many more examples I could give. But if that’s not enough reason to prove why we need still need pride, the Toronto Star recently published a video of homophobic/transphobic hate mail being read to LGBTQ+ people. One of the worst of the letters read “If you were my child and you turned out gay, I’d burn you alive”.
The video is heartbreaking and it illustrates a discouraging reality, but it also conveys an important message: homophobia and transphobia still exist.
So, I think it’s fair to say pride is still needed in our world, even where we think we don’t. So, this is why I think pride’s important, why we should continue celebrating it every year, and why we should never end the conversation.
First, let’s talk about pride itself. By dictionary definition, pride (short for Gay/LGBTQ+ pride) is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It is celebrated annually with parades and festivities that evolved from what is historically known as the “Stonewall riots.” On June 28, 1969, New York police conducted a gay bar raid, something which was common at the time. On that day at the Stonewall Inn, the gay bar where this all went down, people formed a protest against the police that expanded to nearly several thousand people lasting for a period of six days. It marked a significant turning point in the struggle for LGBTQ rights and was crucial in shaping the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.
Pride is celebrated in June and in the summer to commemorate the date of the Stonewall riots. June is pride month in Canada, but the celebrations extend into July and August in cities like Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary.
To put it bluntly, pride is huge. From big towns to small towns all over Canada, pride is regularly celebrated. It’s also rarely a one-day event. In most cites the celebrations continue over the course of at least two days. Others last as long as a week.
There’s also a wide range of festivities that happen at pride. This year’s celebrations in Toronto, in addition to the parade, include movie screenings, concerts, human rights panels, art exhibits and more. Vancouver pride in late July will include celebrity personations drag show and an underwear fashion show. And lastly, in Montreal, there’s pride yoga and zumba, photography exhibitions, La Ronde day, and a “Freakshow” (as the event website describes).
Pride is not restricted to Canada and North America. It is celebrated globally, even in countries where homosexuality is against the law or where homophobia remains commonplace. For example, pride is celebrated annually in New Delhi and Mumbai even though India’s Penal Code makes homosexual sex a punishable offence with a sentence of up to ten years.
Pride was also celebrated in Istabnul, Turkey this year despite the fact that it was banned. Officials said the ban was due to concerns over security and public order, even though the parade has been a peaceful celebration since 2003. Although Turkey, unlike other Muslim countries, does not have laws against homosexuality, homophobia is widespread.
This year’s parade ended with teargas and 19 arrests, and past Istanbul pride parades had similar disruptions. Last year, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse pride marchers.
But people still showed up to the parade, undeterred by the threat of police and arrest. To me, this shows how much pride matters to people. For those who consider pride as an important expression of their identity, a demonstration of support for the LGBTQ+ community, or whatever other reasons, it’s so much more than a parade. People willing to risk their lives, break the law, or rebel against the social mores of their society is in my opinion a deeply powerful act of courage, and it proves how crucial pride is in giving LGBTQ+ communities a voice. Because honestly, who would risk their lives just for a parade?
Of course, Turkey and India are just two narratives out of many. There are still a handful of countries in Africa and Asia that have laws against homosexual acts, and some countries punish it by death. Although most countries around the world don’t persecute homosexual acts, there are still many that have not legalized same-sex marriage. Even Australia, an advanced first-world country, does not legally allow same-sex marriage.
We can consider ourselves lucky in Canada for having more progressive rights, but even when we shine light onto our own continent, we see a chilling darkness that has been cast over the LGBTQ+ community. The shooting at the LGBTQ+ club in Orlando shows that being LGBTQ+ can still put you in danger of persecution, even when you live in a country with legislation to protect you. Due to the shooting, security was upped at London and New York pride festivals, and it will be in Toronto as well.
And although the shooting shook up the lives of 49 families and the LGBTQ+ communities across the globe, it still didn’t prevent pride from happening. People still showed up with full intention to celebrate without fear.
This is where I see the many narratives of pride around the world merge into a single, forceful one: no matter where you live, being LGBTQ+ and attending pride is still a risk. But in defiance of that risk, people still celebrate because pride matters. Maybe it’s because they understand how much road still needs to be traveled for LGBTQ+ equality. Maybe it’s because (as we all should) support universal acceptance and love. Whatever the reason, it’s crystal clear to me that pride is a profoundly meaningful to many for reasons that run deeper than a desire to celebrate.
I think pride is amazing because, first of all, who doesn’t love a good celebration? Second of all, it gives those who’ve been isolated or shamed for their sexual orientation an opportunity to flourish and express their true identity. And lastly, I think pride is amazing because it does all of this while intertwining discussions of equality and human rights. I think spreading happiness while also enlightening society on important issues is a powerful catalyst for change. And although the world is not yet equal, change has slowly arrived since the movements for gay rights began.
But success does not mean having to settle. LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way, but that should only translate into more motivation to continue.
In the end, pride celebrates loving whomever it is you want to love while asking the world for equality, and that’s why it matters. Honouring love and accepting each other is an easy thing to do, and it’s something we can all participate in.