By Max Disposti | North County Update
#WhyWePride is this year’s theme for Pride By The Beach in North County held Oct. 13 in Oceanside.
However, this season of Pride comes in the midst of strong emotions and questions. For those of us that are LGBTQI service providers, the celebration of Pride always brings to mind the struggle and/or the collective accomplishment of the people we serve. The achievements that we want to preserve, the challenges of the present and, of course, the future. But the recent changes of leadership in this administration have soon felt like a big slap in the face, a cold shower effect. The annual congratulatory presidential note that since 2008 was mailed to all of the LGBT centers and Pride offices is no longer. The White House celebrations of Pride are now practically nonexistent or back into the closet and the rainbow lights projected on the White House celebrating the victory of marriage equality and Pride month are already a memory of the past.
Note to self: There is nothing more dramatic and symbolic than turning the lights off and offering darkness as an alternative discourse.
While our administration is not wasting time and opportunities to chip away hard-earned historic achievements, our community has quickly realized how fragile the conquests are and how hate and prejudice can easily come back when we let our guard down.
This year, celebrations of Pride are not for the faint of heart, and while for thousands of youth around the country, Pride is still an opportunity to come out and to even save a life, for the rest of us, the questions arise: Should we celebrate? Should we be demonstrating against policies that have seen many in our communities disfranchised? Should we say enough is enough and resume the spirit of the Stonewall riots and make sure that each and every person that is queer in this country is going to be heard and seen?
Since the 2016 presidential election, some have commented on how Prides parades have become a political tool to push against the current administration. While Pride has always been an independent movement, it’s not new that that fighting for equality, dignity, human rights and visibility has been — since the beginning — lead by progressive and liberal ideals. We really had no choice. I mean, conservatism felt the right to discriminate, legislate against and imprison those in our community. That has never really changed. From Anita Bryant, to the current GOP agenda, the LGBT community is still one of their primary targets. However, despite this scenario, Pride’s independent spirit has pushed forward, even under the most progressive legislative tenures. Just to mention a few: on marriage equality, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the push for the inclusive Employment Non Discriminatory Act (ENDA) are examples of when we have demonstrated, organized, shamed (even the president) and pointed out those political forces that were too slow to support progress. We made no discounts to anyone. I think people have easily forgot the angry and spontaneous protests right after the defeat of Prop 8. I remember when the leadership of the Democratic Party was still finding all the excuses to justify their slow-moving process. Yet, we pushed, demonstrated and then we won against all the odds. We changed heart and minds and we moved forward.
Why I Pride?
Celebrating my “Orgoglio” was never about just celebrating the good or positive times we were living in. We Pride because we exist through the things that we still need to fight about but also through just being our authentic selves. So while this 2018 Pride might appear bittersweet, let’s make sure we Pride. In honor to those that have lead the way. We Pride in solidarity with our trans sisters of color to make sure their deaths were not in vain. We Pride for our immigrant LGBT families that, more than ever, are dreaming for a future without violence and forced deportations. We Pride because we are unapologetically queer, because we learned that heteronormativity does not make us free and that we need to reinvent a new way to just be us without forced assimilations. We Pride because we want to embrace our community all at once, as a universal hug that will make us feel stronger for the rest of the year.
This is my 30th year of participating in Pride, and from Rome to San Francisco, Oceanside to San Diego, the need is the same: We Pride because we need it and because we exist!
—Max Disposti is a human rights advocate, a community organizer and the founder and executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center. He is currently also serving on the California Board of Behavioral Science (BBS), board of the Oceanside City Library and previously served on the city’s Community Relations Commission. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.