The first Pride festival I attended was awkward, to put it lightly. Not because of the event itself—everyone else in attendance looked like they were having a blast. But the blaring music, bright colors, and undeniable evidence that people like me could be proud of who they are…it was a lot for 18-year-old Alex to take in. Freshly out of the closet after almost two decades of denial and self-loathing, I just couldn’t picture myself ever fitting in with the out and proud members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Thanks to the small, conservative echo chamber that is my hometown, there were a lot of internal biases that I needed to confront. And now, after years of painful soul searching and uncomfortable conversations with friends and family, Pride Month is something I look forward to every June. Seeing members and allies of my community openly celebrate and love themselves never fails to bring a smile to my face and fill me with hope.
But if I’m being completely honest, those feelings of excitement and joy just aren’t hitting the same this year. With the onslaught of new anti-LGBT legislation and censorship happening all over the country, it’s been all too easy to get pulled into a negative spiral of doom-scrolling on social media. Injustice has always existed in the world, but after years of progress, the backward steps parts of this country are taking feel like a slap in the face.
For that reason alone, Pride Month is just as important (if not more) this year as ever. Because underneath the corporate-branded parade floats and flashy bar events, the foundation of Pride still holds true. After all, the 1969 Stonewall Riots inspired the very first Pride parade in 1970—a celebration of those who resisted conservative authority for the ability to exist publicly as their most authentic selves. Preserving that legacy is vital to our community’s past, present, and future. And openly expressing who we are and who we love is vital to our community’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Combining these two actions during Pride Month—as well as throughout the rest of the year—continues to strengthen and uplift this liberating, joyous movement that deserves to be celebrated.