This Pride Month I wish that was more excited about it.This is a celebration and commemoration of the LGBTQIA+ community past and present, of queer elders, ancestors, and the next generation. It first started during the historic Stonewall riots in 1969 and has since become not only an opportunity to uplift queer folks in every industry, but also to push even harder for the political and social rights we deserve to live with today. As a brown bisexual Latina, I participate in LGBTQIA+-centered events and live my queerness as boldly as I can, inspired by what others are doing in the spaces we create for ourselves. That for once, I feel the most unafraid to be exactly who I am.
But this year feels different. It feels scary. Just in the past couple of weeks, stores like Target and Kohl’s have received backlash and terrorist threats for their Pride Month collections and in response Target removed certain Pride items from certain stores. Brands like Bud Light and Lego have been boycotted for their open support of their community with their ads and new rainbow-themed products. And over the past few months, anti-LGBTQIA+ bills, specifically targeting the trans community, have been passed not just in Florida but in several other states. Gender-affirming surgery is banned in 16 states including Florida, Montana, and Utah but it’s not just the surgery, it’s the denial of their identity, of seeing them for who they are. For me and I know for many of us, it’s frustrating, infuriating, and exhausting to be queer in the face of this continued discrimination and hate.
I have never been one to engage with rainbow capitalism anyway, a term coined to describe the phenomenon of corporations releasing Pride merchandise and turning their logo rainbow colors, despite offering very little support for their LGBTQIA+ employees or the community the other 11 months. It’s performative and profit-seeking.
But seeing these headlines day after day and hearing about the horrifying realities my friends in certain states are experiencing as a result of today’s laws has made me more pessimistic about this month than I want to be. Especially because I live in a relatively safe corner of Southern California where liberal attitudes dictate our local democracy, it doesn’t feel fair that I should get to feel relatively safe going to a Pride march. Taking out my bi flag and waving it proudly every chance I get. How are we supposed to celebrate when it’s obvious there are so many homophobic people out there who wish we didn’t exist? To the point that they have no problem endangering our lives?
It’s even worse for queer folks of color, who, more often than their white counterparts face queer phobia, family estrangement, mental health issues, and homelessness as a result of the cultures and communities they come from. I can tell you that I have never related to the representation of white queer folks in media who are embraced by their families and are only struggling with which love interest of theirs they want to be with the most. Not when the Latinx community, particularly the older generations, struggle to understand basic pronouns, let alone face the fact that their child or younger relative might be queer. Growing up with decades of casual homophobia, machismo, and cultural (colonized) ideas of gender and sexuality has made me someone who is cautious about what I say at family gatherings, what I share online, how I conduct myself.
And yet, I know that’s exactly the point of Pride. In celebrating who we are and the brave queer elders who have paved the way for us to live today, that is resistance. That is open rebellion. That is refusing to stay silent. I think about why Pride Month was created in the first place, as a collective battling ram against police who were raiding and traumatizing LGBTQIA+ folks at a Manhattan gay bar in 1969. I think about their sacrifices and bravery and fearlessness in the face of a violent, brutal police state, and realize that is exactly the time we’re living in now. Alt-right homophobes and white supremacists, police and politicians, everyone in power wants us to go away. They claim we’re a cult, a group of brainwashed “subhumans” who deserve fewer rights than an unborn child. They want to silence us, make us disappear, eradicate us all. But what could be more queer, more Pride Month than saying no and showing up anyway? Just by proudly existing, we are resisting.
I can still remember my first Pride. It was my last summer in New York, I had just finished my sophomore year of college, and I hadn’t realized yet that I was queer but I wanted to show up anyway to support my friend, volunteer my time, and see what it was all about. To this day, I have yet to meet more kind-hearted, fearless, beautiful human beings. I have yet to feel as strong and empowered as I did hoisting up a giant pride flag down the street. Being in that welcoming and supportive environment made me realize that everything I had ever been told about LGBTQIA+ people was wrong and that I was in a space where I’d be accepted for exactly who I was. It would be another two years before I came out as bisexual and several years after that before I came out as a demigirl, but I couldn’t have done it confidently and safely had I not been in that loving environment first. I’m grateful to the LGBTQIA+ community then and now for holding me and making space for me in all of my identities.
Pride Month is a complicated time for me. It might always be. But for now, I’m hopeful that this June will be our loudest year yet, that despite all the horror and struggle, we will never stop loving and celebrating ourselves, and holding each other. Because in making ourselves heard, I truly believe that our futures have never looked so bright and powerful and beautiful.