Next Saturday, June 21st, is the Gay Pride celebration in Portland, Maine, which is the closest large city to me and thus I will most likely head up for the day to enjoy the festivities. Gay Pride is a funny thing, we celebrate our victories toward equality and we protest our lack of equal rights as LGBTQ citizens of the state and of the USA.
I remember my first ever Pride event was in 1993 in Washington DC. It was massive, almost a million people showed up. Of course media at that time must have been ordered to downplay the event as they estimated about 250,000….but I was THERE and I know it was closer to 1 million or more. Today, in look-back history, even the media will tell you that a million people marched on Washington that year, in what was called The March on Washington. I made this really cool vest to wear especially for it, out of one of my old camo uniform shirts with the sleeves removed. On the back, using iron-on cloth I wrote “Lesbian Veteran” around a large pink triangle. It was my first protest for equality, and my first Gay Pride event. Although, then it was called a march, not Pride as we think of it today. I believe that has we used the word Pride back then for that event that we would have been ridiculed to death, thus internalized homophobia exists even in the organizers of our Pride events. I’m sure it garnered great discussion beforehand at the preparation meetings.
Today, every year, we celebrate June as National Gay History and Pride month. My own internalized homophobia sometimes causes me to cringe a little when I think about all the freaking rainbow flags and banners flying across Facebook and around the country during Pride month. I think to myself, must we be so blatant? But then I am reminded that that is just me being nervous and being homophobic — even though I am a card carrying Butch lesbian and damned proud of it. Still, for some reason, whether it’s just left over engrained stuff from being raised in the 1960’s and 70’s during a period when it was not good to be LGBTQ at all, or what, it just makes me somehow uncomfortable even if just for a minute.
PiecrustKate, blogger who writes The Peace Pit blog did a great piece on this exact topic – internalized homophobia and she explained it perfectly, and I quote:
“Gay Pride celebrations exist because of the homophobia we face daily. They are a chance for us to say to the world that we are just like you, there’s nothing wrong with us, stop oppressing us, stop diminishing our value, stop bullying us, stop hating us.
……but this is what internal homophobia looks like. It’s the disconnect between what we know in our heads and what we feel in our hearts. It’s the deep-seated belief, nurtured by years of external homophobia, that we are less-than. That we should hide who we are so that everything goes along smoothly. We have been conditioned to believe that it is better for us if we don’t own our truth. We won’t be judged, bullied, alienated if we don’t do or say anything that illuminates our differences. It is a survival instinct. And that, my friends, is sad. ”
I read that today, and it’s made the conversation in my head just that much louder. Why are we still afraid and ashamed of who we each are as people? What is it going to take for us to all finally feel equal and comfortable in our own skin? I know in my head that I am normal and that I am equal to anyone else in my country, but the laws do not protect me from discrimination like they should. I can still be denied housing, insurance, Salvation Army assistance and a raft of other rights. My state has fought hard and won the right for everyone to marry who they choose. I am proud of that, but still when I am introducing someone that I may be “with” I am nervous about how to do that introduction and hesitant to just say the truth; although I most often do just speak the truth and let those chips fall where they may.
Then there is internalized homophobia within our community itself that has some very negative affects on us. I’ve faced discrimination from my lesbian peers because I present so blatantly Butch. I’ve even heard the stupid comments about Butches just wanting to “be men” being made by other lesbians, who you think would understand what it’s like to be disrespected and judged by others. I’ve been told it’s wrong for me to enjoy my masculinity the way that I do because that is me “worshipping patriarchy” and that is wrong. I am sure that every faction of the LGBTQ spectrum has some kind of stereotype that they are ridiculed about or judged by, even by other members of our own community and that folks, is just fucking sad.
Generations from now, when you and I are nothing but dust in the wind and fertilizer for daisies, the world will have changed and being LGBTQ will no longer be any different than being straight. Color will not longer matter, as the world’s melting pot will continue to co-mingle the genetic pool until everyone is a little of everything. Those future people will look back on the history books, see The March on Washington, The Stonewall Riots, and everything in between, before and after those events and they will wonder why all the fuss. They will one day know better; one day respect will be mutual hopefully, and differences will be celebrated and not pointed out to hurt in negative ways.
I won’t be here to see that time in the world, but hopefully future generations of my family will be, and they will have a connection to history in me and others in the family, who fought the establishment, and who fought against inequality and against homophobia and transphobia. They will read the verdicts of the highest courts of the land from their history books and they will perhaps laugh at how stupid some of the simplest fights have been along the way. I hope that day comes, and when it does we will all truly be free.
And I’ll enthusiastically push up another daisy in celebration, as my spirit soars above the clouds.