There are places in the world where tyrannical regimes and religious dogmatists encourage persecution and murder of LGBT people with impunity.
Currently, the most infamous place is Chechnya in southern Russia. There, police and paramilitary forces are rounding up gay men and those believed to be gay. The captured men are imprisoned in secret “concentration camps” then beaten, tortured, and humiliated. There are others who are forcibly bullied and outed to their families. Oftentimes the outed gays are murdered by their own families in “honor killings”.
Similar harsh conditions exist in many African countries, especially where religious fanatics and political radicals hold sway over human decency.
Recently in Malaysia, a three-day LGBT pride event was cancelled due to threats and protests by Islamic authorities in that predominantly Muslim nation. Malaysia has strict laws and draconian punishment for “non-traditional” sexual orientations and expressions.
It hasn’t been all that long ago that oppression and shaming of LGBT people took place in the United States and the West. To this day, there are still pockets of backwards homophobic culture in the US. Probable social consequences lead LGBT people to lead secret lives “in the closet”.
Despite all this negative force and hatred, there is a part of us that yearns to be free and to openly be ourselves. Living a lie is a very unhappy lifestyle. Coming out of the closet to ones family, friends, and public is an amazingly liberating experience. It’s a joyful time that feels like being reborn. That’s why the newly out gay cannot shut up about it.
It is this glorious feeling coupled with the newfound freedom to allow oneself to be honest that is Gay or LGBT Pride. LGBT Pride differs from conventional pride in that it is not boastful and hurtful. Gay Pride is empowering and positive.
When the shackles of socially imposed shame are thrown off by coming out of the closet, breathing the fresh air of freedom is exhilarating. The affirmation of freedom is LGBT Pride. If you are straight, ask an “out” LGBT friend or relative what it felt like to come out of the closet. She or he may compare it to a personal independence day. Maybe they felt like celebrating by marching in a parade. This is why parades are an integral part of Gay Pride Month each June.
At the heart, LGBT Pride is a celebration of honesty. It’s also about remembering the struggles that predated the Stonewall riots. We think of the first breaths of the modern gay movement in early 20th century Germany that were snuffed out by the Nazis. We remember the anti-gay rhetoric of the McCarthy era in the United States and how we freed ourselves from its official oppressive influence that polluted American culture for so long.
LGBT Pride remains important because of continuing efforts by political and religious radicals to cram us back into the closet. We won’t forget the struggles, the pain suffered, and the lives lost in our ongoing work for equal rights.
We remember places like Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, the Middle East, North Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia where being who you truly are, if you’re LGBT, has been criminalized. Pride energizes us to help continue to improve the terrible conditions in those countries and that there is hope in their own struggles and marches.
LGBT Pride is especially important to our brothers and sisters who suffer under the jackboots of homophobic regimes. LGBT Pride is the flicker of energy that helps them get through each day.
That’s what all the fuss is about during June, LGBT Pride Month.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Tennessee Williams. “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no. It’s curved like a road through mountains.”