Category Archives: Pride

Pride🏳️‍🌈, Not Prejudice

Randolfe Wicker was wearing a black suit and tie when he participated in what’s thought to be the first U.S. picket for gay civil rights, which took place in New York City in 1964. He wore it when he answered questions on-air in 1965 as one of the first openly gay men to appear on television. And he donned that suit again when he protested New York’s prohibition against serving gay patrons during a “sip-in” in 1966. Wicker jokes that he looked like a preacher for most of the 1960s—but for one of the earliest LGBTQ+ activists, it was a political choice.

Wicker believed that being perceived as respectable would gain LGBTQ+ individuals civil rights. He told Time Magazinethat, “A black suit and tie works wonders anywhere, because if you wear a black suit and tie people will stop and listen to you and consider what you have to say. It was assumed we [gay men] were mentally ill; it was considered that we were certainly criminals, and we were also considered to be morally depraved. But people would still sit and listen to you, and that’s the beginning of a conversation.” But was it?

Wicker was a member of the Mattachine Society (Initially called the Mattachine Foundation), which began as a secret organization in Los Angeles in 1950, with their first Statement of Purpose drawn up in 1951. The group was founded by Communist organizer Harry Hay and other leftists, including Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, Konrad Stevens, James Gruber, and Rudi Gernreich (Jewish Refugee). The Mattachine founders borrowed the initial structure of the organization from the Communist Party, and the leadership, the “fifth order,” was anonymous, so members didn’t even know their names. The Mattachine Society became one of several prominent groups organizing during the period of LGBTQ+ activism referred to as the Homophile Movement.

Thousands of men and women across the country were arrested on charges related to their sexuality each year throughout the 1950s. In California, certain sodomy convictions could carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. And even when the charges resulted in a slap on the wrist from a judge, an accusation could result in the loss of jobs or even homes. But after Mattachine co-founder Dale Jennings was followed and harassed by a police officer, the society mounted a defense—and won the case. Within just a few years, the group would grow to include thousands of members across the country in places like New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. But, while the Mattachine society believed respectability was the best path to civil rights, the organization’s ties to the Communist Party USA were always a problem for gaining any respectability.

The arguments for respectability politics have continued to be part of civil rights strategy in all areas of civil rights. We saw this during the BLM riots last summer, and we see it in LGBTQ+ individuals who condemn gay pride celebrations for its (sometimes) outlandish aspects. Here’s the problem respectability politics; they don’t work. They are based on a false notion that says if only we behave, if only we play by the rules, if only we are good enough, then the church will love and accept us. But it’s not true. Because even if we tell our detractors that we are celibate, they still think we are having sex. (Trust me, I know this firsthand from my mother.) And even when we quote the Bible to them, they still distrust our reading of it. Even when we dress like them, talk like them, and marry like them, they are still waiting for us to mess up so they can discredit us. And if we play into respectability politics, we are working against liberation. We are saying, “I’m not like the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m one of the good ones.” And by saying that, we allow straight and cisgender people to say it as well, and suddenly the “bad queers” are pushed to the side, or worse, pushed out entirely.

Respectability politics set up a hierarchy that allows straight and cisgender people to hold up the “good gays” and silence the “bad gays.” And who are the bad gays? We are anyone who believes that liberation should be for the whole LGBTQ+ community. We are the ones who get angry or raise our voices about injustice. We are the ones who say that it’s not okay for allies to speak over the LGBTQ+ community. We are the ones who say that there is more than one way to be LGBTQ+ (it’s the reason for the “+”). We don’t have to be celibate, and we can medically transition if that’s what’s right for us. We are the ones who dress the way we want. We act the way we want. We are proud of who we are and every aspect of the gay community. Maybe something is not your cup of tea, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I love drag queens, but I have no desire to be one. I love seeing men in skimpy outfits at Pride, but am I comfortable doing the same? No, I’m not, but if I had their body (or body positivity), then I might be right there with them.

When the people who hate us come for us (and they will), they won’t care if we have conformed to some false heteronormativity. They won’t care that we are white, dress nice, and toe the line. They will look at us as if we are just like all of the other members of the LGBTQ+ community, the ones that you have said you aren’t like. They won’t see the differences between us. They will lump us all together. In that moment, your respectability will not save you. They will still say that you don’t have a place in their churches, you don’t deserve to have civil rights, and it would be better off if you would just go away. Setting up this hierarchy allows people to control us. It also allows people to say who deserves respect and rights. They say only those who toe the line and behave deserve rights. They think you only deserve respect if you are polite and don’t get angry and speak softly, yet it will always be false respect if they ever give it at all. When it comes time to allow us civil rights, they will have a myriad of excuses for why we don’t deserve equal or civil rights.

You can live however you want. You can choose celibacy, singleness, or marriage for yourself; that is not the issue here. But when you demand it from other people or when you set it up so that your choice is the one that is acceptable by the straight and cisgender people, you become part of the problem. Liberation is about liberation for all of us, and if it’s not liberation for all of us, then it’s not liberation at all. When you narrow the rules so that only the “good” get in, you’re not actually working for liberation. You’re working so that someone else’s rules and priorities can define us, and that’s not good enough. We all deserve to be free.

For many years, I cared deeply about acceptance by my family and friends in Alabama. I wanted my parents to see that I am who I have always been and that there is no shame in my gayness. In recent years, I have realized, they will never change their minds. I watched them throw their support behind our former, twice-impeached president when he represented everything my parents taught me not to be. (I even pointed that out to them, but it got me a dial tone on the other end of the line.) They relished in his hate and lies. I realized that if they could turn against all they believed to “better” call themselves Christian; then they would never accept me for being gay. One thing this pandemic has done is that it has kept me away for a year and a half (two years if I go back down at Christmas, which I probably will). At first, I was sad I would miss them last Christmas, but I got over it. I didn’t want their constant judgment and to be forced to “be straight.” I hope and pray that I will have the courage to be who I am when I go back to Alabama to visit my family the next time.

In the LGBTQ+ community, some criticize pride parades because they see them as having an undue emphasis on sex and fetish-related interests. They claim this as counterproductive to LGBTQ+ interests and expose the “gay community” to ridicule. However, traditional media outlets often emphasize the most outlandish and non-representative aspects of the community. The main issue is not whether gay people will be ridiculed for the sometimes outlandish and sexualized aspects of LGBTQ+ pride parades, but that pride parades are visibility. We aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion of us by being “respectable” during pride events. When I was growing up in Alabama, I never remember any pride parades in the state, though Birmingham has had a pride parade since 1989. As pride parades have become more common, in addition to Birmingham, there are celebrations from Huntsville to Mobile. The same is true of Mississippi. I think Jackson had a pride parade when I lived in Mississippi from 2000-2009, but now, pride parades are held across the states. 

The fact that there are pride parades in states like Alabama and Mississippi shows that LGBTQ+ visibility has increased in the United States in the past 20 or so years. Pride parades are not just for big cities anymore. When I moved to Vermont, the only pride parade was in Burlington, but now there are celebrations in Montpelier, Rutland, and Bennington. Visibility is the primary goal of LGBTQ+ pride, but it’s also about belonging. Respectability politics is counterproductive to LGBTQ+ visibility. It forces us to hide and pretend to be something contrary to who we are. The variety of expression at LGBTQ+ pride events shows the diversity of our community. It brings out of the margins all of our community to proudly proclaim, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it!” because we aren’t going anywhere. We don’t need acceptance. We don’t need approval. We don’t need permission. We need liberation.

Between the Dragon and the Phoenix

Between the Dragon and the Phoenix
By C. Dale Young – 1969-

Fire in the heart, fire in the sky, the sun just
a smallish smudge resting on the horizon
out beyond the reef that breaks the waves,

fiery sun that waits for no one. I was little more
than a child when my father explained
that the mongrel is stronger than the thoroughbred,

that I was splendidly blended, genetically engineered
for survival. I somehow forgot this, misplaced this,
time eroding my memory as it erodes everything.

But go ask someone else to write a poem about Time.
Out over the bay, the sun is rising, and I am running
out of time. Each and every year, on my birthday,

I wake to watch the sunrise. I am superstitious.
And today, as in years past, it is not my father
but my father’s father who comes to shout at me:

Whether you like it or not, you are a child of fire. You
descend from the Dragon, descend from the Phoenix.
Your blood is older than England, older than Castille.

Year after year, he says the same thing, this old man
dead long before I was born. So, I wake each year
on the day of my birth to watch the fire enter the sky

while being chastised by my dead grandfather.
Despite being a creature of fire, I stay near the water.
Why even try to avoid what can extinguish me?

There are times I can feel the fire flickering inside my frame.
The gulls are quarreling, the palm trees shimmering—
the world keeps spinning on its axis. Some say I have

nine lives. Others think me a machine. Neither is true.
The truth is rarely so conventional. Fire in my heart, fire
in my veins, I write this down for you and watch

as it goes up in flames. There are no paragraphs
wide enough to contain this fire, no stanzas
durable enough to house it. Blood of the Dragon,

blood of the Phoenix, I turn my head slowly
toward the East. I bow and call for another year.
I stand there and demand one more year.

About This Poem

“Can the dead visit you? Can a grandfather who died before you were even born come to you? Every year on my birthday, I get up to watch the sunrise. And every year, I feel quite clearly my father’s father is there with me.”—C. Dale Young

Why I Chose This Poem

I chose this poem because I was looking at poems for LGBTQ+ Pride Month on the Academy of American Poets website, and the title of this poem, “Between the Dragon and the Phoenix,” caught my eye. I have a tattoo on my left arm of a dragon and a phoenix. The tattoo is very meaningful for me because it represents a friend of mine who died last year. He had been a friend of mine from about the time I started blogging. He had helped me through some difficult times, and I will forever be grateful for his friendship. In the last few years of his life, he had suffered some major health problems, and he was not able to recover from them.

He lived in Hawaii but was of Chinese descent. We rarely exchanged Christmas gifts, but we always sent each other something for Chinese New Year and for birthdays. One year, I sent him a drawing of a dragon and phoenix in the classic Yin and Yang position. I had an artist friend of mine draw it and I had it framed and sent to him. When his mother saw it, she became very excited as it was nearly the exact same design as had been on her wedding dress many years earlier. Because he cherished that piece of art and displayed it prominently in his house, I had a similar design tattooed on my arm to always remind me of him and his generosity.

Like in the grandfather in “Between the Dragon and the Phoenix,” I feel that my friend is with me always.

My Tattoo

About The Poet

C. Dale Young was born in 1969 and grew up in the Caribbean and South Florida. He received a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and English at Boston College in 1991 and went on to earn an MFA in English and creative writing and a doctoral degree in medicine, both from the University of Florida.

Young is the author of five poetry collections: Prometeo, (Four Way Books, 2021); The Affliction: A Novel in Stories (Four Way Books, 2018); The Halo (Four Way Books, 2016); Torn (Four Way Books, 2011); The Second Person (Four Way Books, 2007); The Day Underneath the Day (Northwestern University Press, 2001).

In his review of Torn, Mark Doty writes, “C. Dale Young’s poems employ sly forms of repetition, touching back to phrases we’ve already encountered as if to guide us along the poem’s winding way. How important—and how fierce—these directions turn out to be as his poems push into their deepest territory: the burden of expectation and guilt, the fiercely pressurized experience that an education in the ‘healing arts’ becomes. … [Young] brings all his strength to bear on the necessary work of art, which is also a means of tending and of stitching, a craft that by its very artfulness implies the possibility of hope.”

Young’s honors include the Grolier Prize and the Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. The former poetry editor of the New England Review (1995–2014), Young currently practices medicine full-time and teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He lives in San Francisco.


Getting Back in the Saddle

In response to Saturday’s Moment of Zen post about the pharmacy guy, VRCooper said, “Girl…We have to send you back to gay school.” I know it was mostly a joke, but I never went to “gay school.” Growing up in rural Alabama in a religious family, I never knew any gay people or anything about gay people until I went away to college and began reading gay books and researching what it meant to be gay on the internet. 

Most gay people I know have gay friends. I never had a gay friend (notwithstanding a few short-term boyfriends) with whom I could hang out, go to bars, watch a movie, or go to gay events. I had one gay friend and confidant, who lived about a thousand miles away. We met through my blog and became good friends. We texted each other all the time. I am so much better at texting than being on the phone. Then, my friend died in a car wreck, and I’ve never had another close gay friend. I am a painfully shy person. I’ve always hated talking on the phone because I’ve hated how my phone voice sounds. You can ask Susan. We also became friends through my blog, and it took her forever to convince me to talk to her on the phone. Now, we talk on the phone at least once a day. She’s my closest friend and confidant. I don’t talk nearly as much to my best friend who lives in Texas.

I’ve never made friends easily. I’ve made female friends more easily than male friends, but they are still few and far between. I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know. So, when VRCooper suggested, “Strike up a conversation,” it’s quite a difficult thing for me to do. I feel awkward. The truth is, I need constant encouragement to give me a little courage to be my charming self, and I am a charming and good-hearted person. My friend who passed away was always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. VRCooper also said my “tone in writing reeks of defeat.” I know it does because I have zero self-confidence when it comes to men. Once I get to know someone or become comfortable around them, I can talk their ear off, but I am not one to initiate a conversation.  When the other person is a man, it is even more challenging getting comfortable with them.

Even when I do make friends, I tend to have a hard time opening up. There are certain things about my personal life I have a difficult time discussing. I had an easier time with my friend who passed away because he was gay. There were things I could talk to him about that my conservative, sheltered upbringing doesn’t allow me to talk about to just anyone comfortably. There was something exceptional about that friendship which is why I was so devastated when he died. It took me a long time to try to be social again. I finally decided that is what my friend would have wanted me to do. I had to try to get back in the saddle which is an apt analogy. I fell off a horse when I was a kid and got kicked in the head. Every time I’ve gotten on a horse since, I find it impossible to get comfortable and enjoy it. However, if I ever had the chance to ride a horse again, I’d hop back in that saddle and try to enjoy it.

Also, I have often found like with any group of people, gay people have their clicks. Before the pandemic, I went to as many gay events in Burlington as I could. Sometimes I had one of my female friends go with me; sometimes, I went by myself. Whether it was First Friday (monthly drag shows and dances) or Burly Bears (the only gathering for gay men in Vermont), I tried to fit in. I tried to make conversation but found it extremely hard. Occasionally, someone would come over to talk to me, and I’d chat and have a good time, but inevitably they went back to their friends. Again, I was left standing there alone with my drink. Soon, gay events will start up again in Burlington, and I will try again. I have also tried to meet local people online for friendship, but no one ever seems to want anything more than sex. It seems impossible to find someone willing to have just dinner or even just meet for drinks.

I know I sound incredibly pathetic, and I know I’m complaining. I just needed to voice my frustrations. But I also want to say I’m trying to do better; I’m trying to be bolder. But it’s not easy. I’ve spent my whole life hiding behind my shyness, and I know it’s time I got over it and be more confident. What better time to do that than during pride month? It’s a time when we celebrate ourselves and boldly proclaim who we are. That’s why I went to the pharmacy on Friday hoping to see the cute pharmacy tech (CPT). I wore my pride polo shirt. It’s subtle, but hard to miss. It was obvious people noticed it. Unlike in the South, where I would have gotten ugly looks and rude behavior, everywhere I went that day, and everyone I saw including the tech at Verizon, the cashier at PetSmart, and yes, the CPT and others at the pharmacy, they all seemed nicer and friendlier. 

Germany and LGBTQ+ Liberation 🏳️‍🌈 🇩🇪

Christopher Street Day 2006 in Berlin

Aside from the street festivals, corporate platitudes, and sex parties, LGBTQ+ Pride is meant to be a living embodiment of LGBTQ+ history. The tradition started in June 1970 as a commemoration of the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn, when queer people rebelled against police harassment in New York City. But the history we remember remains myopically focused on the United States. The LGBTQ+ past on display each June is a heroic one with familiar, American milestones: the tragedies of the Lavender Scare and the AIDS crisis offset by the triumphs of Stonewall and marriage equality. This story has even become part of the progressive narratives of American democracy. In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama declared, “The most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”

This heroic narrative is, of course, incomplete. The U.S.-centric story of LGBTQ+ liberation ignores that sexual minorities abroad have fought just as hard and sometimes faced even greater discrimination. When we look beyond the United States, it becomes clear that liberation is far from the inevitable end of a progress narrative. Rather it is a local, subjective, and ever-changing project. LGBTQ+ rights have come with hard fought battles and the progress can sometimes be very slow.

If we look at some other countries, we see that LGBTQ+ liberation didn’t even start in the United States, and we have often lagged behind. Germany is a particularly compelling place to examine. The term homosexual comes from the German language. The term ‘homosexuality’ was coined in the late 19th century by an Austrian-born Hungarian psychologist, Karoly Maria Benkert, who wrote extensively on the subject. In his pamphlets, Kertbeny argued that the Prussian sodomy law, Paragraph 143 (which later became Paragraph 175 of the penal code of the German Empire), violated the “rights of man.”  

In Berlin in 1919, Germany, Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld co-founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sex Research), a pioneering private research institute and counseling office. That same year, Different from the Others, one of the first explicitly gay films, was released. Magnus Hirschfeld had a cameo in the film and partially funded its production. In 1922, Dora Richter became the first transgender woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery in Hirschfeld’s Institute, the first operation of its kind in the world. Then on October 16, 1929, a Reichstag Committee voted to repeal Paragraph 175. The Social Democrats and other leftist parties backed the repeal, while the Catholic Center party and other right-wing parties opposed the repeal. 

Berlin has a long history of gay culture and influence on popular entertainment, and in the 1920s the city was the Gay Capital of Europe. In 1896 the world’s first gay magazine started in Berlin, called Der Eigene (“The Self-Owning”). During the 1920s and 1930s the world’s first gay village was in Berlin’s Schöneberg. Gay and lesbian bars and nightclubs flourished, as did queer artistic expression through films, music, and print publications. Cabaret singer Claire Waldoff and actress Marlene Dietrich lived and worked in Berlin’s queer neighborhoods during this time. The first gay demonstration anywhere occurred in Berlin in 1922. 

The Nazis’ rise to power prevented the implementation of the vote on Paragraph 175 and ended the gay culture of Berlin. In 1933, the Nazi Party banned homosexual groups. Gay men were sent to concentration camps, and the Nazis burned the library of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research and destroy the Institute. The first use of the pink triangle for gay men in Nazi concentration camps came in 1937. Then in 1945, when Allied forces liberated the Nazi concentration camps by Allied forces, but those interned for homosexuality were not freed and were required to serve out the full term of their sentences under Paragraph 175.

After World War II, Germany was divided by the Cold War and charted two very different paths when it came to gay liberation. In 1949, the country formally split into democratic West Germany and communist East Germany. Yet, of the two, it was the liberal democracy that continued Nazi-era persecution of gay men. Over the course of the 20 years between 1949 and 1969, West German courts convicted more than 50,000 queer men under Nazi statutes that remained on the books. East Germany began to repeal parts of Paragraph 175, and in 1968, Paragraph 175 is largely ignored in East Germany, decriminalizing homosexual acts over the age of 18. West Germany followed in 1969.

Groups of same-sex desiring men who labeled themselves homophiles (a word they thought sounded more respectable than homosexual) cropped up in West Germany in the early 1950s. Unlike similar groups in the United States and other western European countries, however, they quickly faded. By 1960, they had all but disappeared. There was no Stonewall moment in West Germany, nor any memorable stand against the oppressive policing and sexual morality of those early postwar decades.

Instead, West German politicians reformed the laws banning homosexual conduct in 1969 as part of a broader revision of the penal code. After this legislative change, new gay and lesbian bars, saunas, and periodicals soon arose. A radical liberation movement also appeared in those years. But it was strikingly different from its cousin in the United States. Its members opposed the commercial gay scene, viewing it as a barrier to the kind of solidarity that would be necessary to win real social and political change. The groups attacked gay publications, denouncing them as nothing more than “masturbation templates.”

When it came to politics, the movement also diverged from the center-left alliance that arose between LGBTQ+ activists and the Democratic Party in the United States. Over the course of the 1970s, West German activists enjoyed their greatest support from the centrist Free Democratic Party, but activists ultimately had little success pushing their policies in the federal government. They grew cynical about the possibilities of parliamentary politics. As a result, LGBTQ+ West Germans never fully came together behind any of the major parties, even after German reunification in 1990, and they continue to divide their votes across the political spectrum.

During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, West German history also diverged from the U.S. path. Whereas the Reagan administration stayed silent and let LGBTQ+ Americans perish, the West German government, in particular federal health minister Rita Süssmuth, partnered with AIDS self-help groups to circulate information about the disease and safer sex. West Germany never shut down its gay saunas and still managed to bring infection rates down dramatically over the course of the decade. Because of the government’s success fighting AIDS, radical groups like ACT UP played a much smaller part in the German activist scene.

If, by the end of the 1980s, West Germany’s activists were far less politically radical than those in other countries, they had nonetheless managed both to preserve their subculture and find ways to collaborate with politicians and bureaucrats. West German LGBTQ+ activism was not characterized by the same triumphal moments or catastrophic setbacks as the American version, but nonetheless forged a kind of liberation no less real than that in the United States.

Yet this distinctive West German history is largely forgotten, submerged beneath the dominant U.S. narrative — even in Germany. The annual Berlin Pride celebration is known as Christopher Street Day, named for the Stonewall Inn’s address. Even by the mid-1980s, activists and historians, dispirited by a lack of parliamentary political victories, had begun to compare West Germany’s liberation movement unfavorably with that in the United States.

The East German experience with gay liberation was yet more surprising. Although most Westerners assumed such activism could not possibly have been successful in a communist state, by the end of the 1980s, East Germany could realistically lay claim to being one of the most sexually progressive countries on Earth. In the 1970s, gay men and lesbians began to organize together in East Berlin. While the Stasi, the secret police, denied the group the right to organize in public, these tenacious women and men coordinated house parties, steamboat cruises, and birthday dinners. In the middle of the decade, the East German LGBTQ+ communnity met Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a trans woman who ran a museum in one of East Berlin’s outer neighborhoods. She offered them the museum’s basement to host their activities, and for several years they “bopped and danced like it was 1904.” This arrangement lasted until 1978, when the East Berlin police forbade the group to continue meeting.

But only a few years later, lesbian and gay activists mobilized again, this time under the umbrella of the Protestant Church, the only nominally independent organization in the communist state. Spreading rapidly across the country, they pressured the government to change laws and social policies, such as allowing gay men to serve in the military, repealing a law that set a higher age of consent for gay and lesbian sex, and making it easier for same-sex partners to find housing together. The government tried cracking down on the groups, but to no avail: They continued to grow in size and number. So worried was the Stasi that its functionaries convinced the East German government to accede to activists’ demands. Stasi officials began circulating memos in 1985 insisting that government bodies address gay men and lesbians’ “humanitarian problems,” that is, taking their complaints seriously.

As a result, change came rapidly. The government equalized the age of consent, years before most other countries, including West Germany and the United States. It promulgated a policy allowing openly gay men to serve in the military. LGBTQ+ people were given the right to seek sexual and mental health counseling. The East German government greenlighted the first gay feature film, “Coming Out,” which premiered Nov. 9, 1989—the night East Germans breached the Berlin Wall. Local governments began sanctioning LGBTQ+ organizations and staging gay disco nights.

In the years after reunification, these two distinct German paths converged. The principal LGBTQ+ organization in Germany today was founded by East German activists in 1990 and the West German federal states abolished the last vestiges of their antigay statutes as a direct result of East Germany’s more progressive lawmaking. The West German subculture began to bleed into the Eastern lands, in particular East Berlin, which has become synonymous with queer nightlife in recent decades.

The point is not that East or West Germany achieved a liberation better than that in the United States, but rather that LGBTQ+ life and activism took distinctive forms in different local and national contexts. The American version of LGBTQ+ liberation is not the only history we should pay attention to. Germany led the way for many years before the United States began its LGBTQ+ liberation movement. When America was undergoing the Lavender Scare, East Germany was relaxing laws against homosexuality.

Importance of Pride 🏳️‍🌈

Vermont Pride 2019

June is Pride Month 🏳️‍🌈. Did I really need to write that? LOL I did so because I wanted to make a point, obviously. I have seen any number of social media posts either deriding LGBTQ+ merchandise or taking to task companies that use pride merchandise or advertising during Pride Month to make money. Some of those companies do support anti-LGBTQ+ politicians or organizations. All of these criticisms have valid points, and a lot of the pride merchandise is tacky. Some organizations seem to only be pro-LGBTQ+ during the month of June, and they support anti-LGBTQ+ efforts the rest of the year. 

Representatives Pramila Jayapa (D-WA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently listed (and derided) on social media companies who were celebrating Pride but continue to support anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and organizations. As a general rule, I like Rep. Jayapa, but Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is a different story. In my opinion, AOC is an annoying, pandering, and shallow politician who wants to get attention, but I am getting sidetracked. Yes, these companies need to be told to do better and show support of the LGBTQ+ community all year round, not just in June, but do we want these companies to ignore us completely? We should be happy for the support, and instead of criticizing them, especially coming from non-LGBTQ+ people, we should be encouraging these companies to do better.

Pride itself has its faults: whitewashing, trans exclusion, corporate assimilation, etc., but how many of us grew up seeing absolutely zero LGBTQ+ representation anywhere. If we did, it was either very negative or stereotypical. Most gay representation I was aware of portrayed the LGBTQ+ community as having HIV/AIDS, being sexually deviant and/or promiscuous, and all too often, pedophiles. I always found it interesting that when same-sex couples wanted to get married, conservatives were against the idea, but the same people hated same-sex couples because they saw them as non-monogamous and (gasp) unmarried fornicators.

Most of us did not grow up with any positive LGBTQ+ representation anywhere. Growing up in rural Alabama, I may have known of three or four gay people. I did not know any personally. So, while I understand the criticisms of Pride, I think of what it might mean to a closeted teenager who has never seen a positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community. What would it have meant to me as a teenager to see positive LGBTQ+ representation? If we had been reinforcing positive attitudes all along, would things be different? 

In 1988, a National Opinion Research Center/General Social Survey/University of Chicago poll found that 67.6 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, 10.7 percent of Americans supported it, 13.9 percent of Americans neither agreed nor disagreed, and 7.8 percent didn’t have an opinion. A May 2015 (one month before the historic Obergefell v. Hodgesdecision), a Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, 37 percent opposed, and 3 percent had no opinion. Those numbers continue to improve. A June 2021 Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, and 29 percent were against it. Positive change leads to positive LGBTQ+ representation.

Pride is a celebration of life in the face of oppression and repression. For 335 days a year, we are told that our body is sinful and sick, those who we have sex with and who we love should be kept hidden, our body is weird, and the scars are ugly, our clothing, hair, fat, penis, breasts, arms, legs, or flesh itself is disgusting, vile, and “unnatural” … For 335 days of the year, we walked around in fear. We hid who we love or our body. We dropped our lover’s hand in public or refused to kiss our lover goodbye in front of our workplace. We feared violence walking home at night or in the broad light of the afternoon sun. Those are all situations many of us dealt with in our lives. We had to hide who we were and are. Pride month is about visibility and freedom from repression.

During that month, we usually have one day where there is a pride parade. It took me going nearly 5,000 miles from home to go to my first pride parade. I went to the Pride parade in Paris, France, while on a study abroad trip during graduate school. We arrived in Paris on the day of Pride, and as soon as they let us loose on the city by ourselves, a friend and I headed straight to the parade. I have been to a few since, mainly here in Vermont (we hold ours in September here, not June.) If you’ve ever been to a Pride celebration, you know that the people watching is one of the best parts. The sense of belonging is probably the best part, but people-watching is a lot of fun. There are colorful outfits, elaborate costumes, cute kids, couples holding hands, and more. There’s also no small number of people basically wearing nothing, maybe just skimpy underwear or tape over sensitive areas, but that’s half the fun.

For this one month out of the year or even just that one precious day of the pride parade, we can be ourselves without fear of judgment. For one month, we can be a symbol of acceptance and freedom, and we can love, laugh, dance, have sex, and walk around in our underwear if we choose. We have this one precious and special month (and possibly even just a day) when we can celebrate our body, flesh, love, passion, life, and sexuality. We should celebrate, embrace, and love it all. For what it is, and not the commercialization of the celebration. There are companies out there that genuinely support the LGBTQ+ community in many ways.

If you are interested in what companies truly support LGBTQ+ equality, check out the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking tool on corporate policies, practices, and benefits pertinent to LGBTQ+ employees. The HRC website also lets you search for how your federal elected officials stand on legislation that impacts the LGBTQ+ community on their Your Elected Officials page. I, for one, am happy that even the companies that don’t have the greatest track record on LGBTQ+ issues show some rainbow colors and Pride during Pride Month. As far as I remember, no company did this at all while I was growing up.

A few questions for you to either discuss in the comments or to just ponder:

  • How do you feel about the commercialization of Pride? 
  • Is the exposure of corporate sponsorships a good thing? 
  • Should we be openly criticizing companies (or boycott companies who aren’t always the most LGBTQ+ friendly but do support Pride? 
  • Or should we work to make those companies do better LGBTQ+ allies in the future while being happy they do support Pride? 
  • Is it all just commercialism, or does it also have a positive effect on societal views of the LGBTQ+ community and Pride?

I’d love to know your opinions.

LGBTQ+ Poetry Classics

Love the Light-Giver
By Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

To Tommaso De’ Cavalieri

Veggio co’ bei vostri occhi.

With your fair eyes a charming light I see,
 For which my own blind eyes would peer in vain;
 Stayed by your feet, the burden I sustain
 Which my lame feet find all too strong for me;
Wingless upon your pinions forth I fly;
 Heavenward your spirit stirreth me to strain;
 E’en as you will, I blush and blanch again,
 Freeze in the sun, burn ‘neath a frosty sky.
Your will includes and is the lord of mine;
 Life to my thoughts within your heart is given;
 My words begin to breathe upon your breath:
Like to the moon am I, that cannot shine
 Alone; for lo! our eyes see nought in heaven
 Save what the living sun illumineth.

Love Returned
By Bayard Taylor (1825-1878)

He was a boy when first we met;
 His eyes were mixed of dew and fire,
And on his candid brow was set
 The sweetness of a chaste desire:
But in his veins the pulses beat
 Of passion, waiting for its wing,
As ardent veins of summer heat
 Throb through the innocence of spring.

As manhood came, his stature grew,
 And fiercer burned his restless eyes,
Until I trembled, as he drew
 From wedded hearts their young disguise.
Like wind-fed flame his ardor rose,
 And brought, like flame, a stormy rain:
In tumult, sweeter than repose,
 He tossed the souls of joy and pain.

So many years of absence change!
 I knew him not when he returned:
His step was slow, his brow was strange,
 His quiet eye no longer burned.
When at my heart I heard his knock,
 No voice within his right confessed:
I could not venture to unlock
 Its chambers to an alien guest.

Then, at the threshold, spent and worn
 With fruitless travel, down he lay:
And I beheld the gleams of morn
 On his reviving beauty play.
I knelt, and kissed his holy lips,
 I washed his feet with pious care;
And from my life the long eclipse
 Drew off; and left his sunshine there.

He burns no more with youthful fire;
 He melts no more in foolish tears;
Serene and sweet, his eyes inspire
 The steady faith of balanced years.
His folded wings no longer thrill,
 But in some peaceful flight of prayer:
He nestles in my heart so still,
 I scarcely feel his presence there.

O Love, that stern probation o’er,
 Thy calmer blessing is secure!
Thy beauteous feet shall stray no more,
 Thy peace and patience shall endure!
The lightest wind deflowers the rose,
 The rainbow with the sun departs,
But thou art centred in repose,
 And rooted in my heart of hearts!

A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI
By A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

White in the moon the long road lies,
 The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
 That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
 Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
 Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,
 And straight though reach the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, ’twill all be well,
 The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
 Far, far must it remove:
White in the moon the long road lies
 That leads me from my love.

Undressing You
By Witter Bynner (1881-1968)

Fiercely I remove from you
All the little vestiges—
Garments that confine you,
Things that touch the flesh,
The wool and the silk
And the linen that entwine you,
Tear them all away from you,
Bare you from the mesh.
And now I have you as you are,
Nothing to encumber you—
But now I see, caressing you,
Colder hands than mine.
They take away your flesh and bone,
And, utterly undressing you,
They tear you from your beauty
And they leave no sign.

The More Loving One
By W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

And for the “L” in LGBTQ+:

[In my eyes he matches the gods]
By Sappho (c. 630-c. 570 BCE)

In my eyes he matches the gods, that man who
sits there facing you–any man whatever–
listening from closeby to the sweetness of your
  voice as you talk, the

sweetness of your laughter: yes, that–I swear it–
sets the heart to shaking inside my breast, since
once I look at you for a moment, I can’t
  speak any longer,

but my tongue breaks down, and then all at once a
subtle fire races inside my skin, my
eyes can’t see a thing and a whirring whistle
  thrums at my hearing,

cold sweat covers me and a trembling takes
ahold of me all over: I’m greener than the
grass is and appear to myself to be little
  short of dying.

But all must be endured, since even a poor

About the Poets

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known simply as Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence.

Bayard Taylor was an American poet, literary critic, translator, travel author, and diplomat. Though he wanted to be known most as a poet, Taylor was mostly recognized as a travel writer during his lifetime. Modern critics have generally accepted him as technically skilled in verse, but lacking imagination and, ultimately, consider his work as a conventional example of 19th-century sentimentalism.

Alfred Edward Housman, usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet. His cycle of poems, A Shropshire Lad, wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside.

Harold Witter Bynner, also known by the pen name Emanuel Morgan, was an American poet and translator. He was known for his long residence in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and association with other literary figures there.

Wystan Hugh Auden, usually known as W.H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet. Auden’s poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form, and content. 

Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Sappho is known for her lyric poetry, written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre. In ancient times, Sappho was widely regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets and was given names such as the “Tenth Muse” and “The Poetess”. Most of Sappho’s poetry is now lost, and what is extant has mostly survived in fragmentary form.


Star Trek Crushes

Star Trek: Discovery’s Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz)

Actor Wil Wheaton, known for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, welcomed pride month this weekend by giving a special shout-out to his LGBTQ+ fans. Wheaton, who is now 48, took to Facebook to publicly acknowledge the number of Star Trek fans that had a crush on the actor–or his character–during the show’s run.

“Over the years, I’ve met several men who have told me that their childhood crush on Wesley Crusher was a big part of them coming out and living their lives with joy and love and pride,” Wheaton wrote. “I can not even begin to tell you how much this means to me. I love it so much that I, and some of my work, were there for people (when I didn’t even know it was happening) who needed a safe place.”

As a Star Trek fan, I certainly had a crush on Wesley Crusher, but the character that really made my heart go pitter patter was Dr. Julian Bashir (portrayed by Alexander Siddig) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Bashir has sometimes been referred to as a twink, although his character began the series in his late twenties. He obviously caught the eye of the station’s resident Cardassian tailor, Elim Garak (portrayed by Andrew Robinson). Dr. Bashir was always handsome in the series, in particular, I always loved the episode “Rivals” because of the skintight suit Bashir wears while playing racquetball.

Alexander Siddig: Dr. Julian Bashir and Today

I had crushes on other Star Trek characters as well. On Star Trek: Voyager, I had a thing for Tom Paris played by the ever-handsome Robert Duncan McNeill. Enterprise had Commander “Trip” Tucker portrayed by Connor Trinneer who seemed to spend half the series in his underwear and boy did he look good in his underwear. With Star Trek: Discovery, we now have actual gay characters, who are all surprisingly played by gay actors, to lust after. I am looking forward to the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to see actor Ethan Peck, the grandson of actor Gregory Peck, who will be playing Spock. Peck previously played Spock during the second season of Discovery

Connor Trinneer as Commander “Trip” Tucker

Poems by Joseph O. Legaspi

Whom You Love
By Joseph O. Legaspi

  ”Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Creole Proverb

The man whose throat blossoms with spicy chocolates
Tempers my ways of flurrying
Is my inner recesses surfacing
Paints the bedroom blue because he wants to carry me to the skies
Pear eater in the orchard
Possesses Whitmanesque urge & urgency
Boo Bear, the room turns orchestral
Crooked grin of ice cream persuasion
When I speak he bursts into seeds & religion
Poetry housed in a harmonica
Line dances with his awkward flair
Rare steaks, onion rings, Maker’s on the rocks
Once-a-boy pilfering grenadine
Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska
Wicked at the door of happiness
At a longed-for distance remains sharply crystalline
Fragments, but by day’s end assembled into joint narrative
Does not make me who I am, entirely
Heart like a fig, sliced
Peonies in a clear round vase, singing
A wisp, a gasp, sonorous stutter
Tuning fork deep in my belly, which is also a bell
Evening where there is no church but fire
Sparks, particles, chrysalis into memory
Moth, pod of enormous pleasure, fluttering about on a train
He knows I don’t need saving & rescues me anyhow
Our often-misunderstood kind of love is dangerous
Darling, fill my cup; the bird has come to roost

[ a subway ride ]
By Joseph O. Legaspi

His artfully unkempt strawberry blonde head sports outsized headphones. Like a contemporary bust. Behold the innocence of the freckles, ripe pout of cherry lips. As if the mere sight of the world hurts him, he squints greenly and applies saline drops. You dream him crying over you. For the duration of a subway ride you fall blindly in love. Until he exits. Or you exit, returning home to the one you truly love to ravish him.

V-Neck T-Shirt Sonnet
By Joseph O. Legaspi

I love a white v-neck t-shirt
on you: two cotton strips racing
to a point they both arrived at: there
vigor barely contained, flaming hair,
collarless, fenced-in skin that shines.
Cool drop of hem, soft & lived-in,
so unlike my father, to bed you go,
flushed with fur in a rabbit’s burrow
or nest for a flightless bird, brooding.
Let me be that endangered species,
huddled in the vessel of the inverted
triangle: gaped mouth of a great white
fish on the verge of striking, poised
to devour & feed on skin, on all.

Vows (for a gay wedding)
By Joseph O. Legaspi

What was unforeseen is now a bird orbiting this field.

What wasn’t a possibility is present in our arms.

It shall be and it begins with you.

Our often-misunderstood kind of love deems dangerous.
How it frightens and confounds and enrages.
How strange, unfamiliar.

Our love carries all those and the contrary.
It is most incandescent.

So, I vow to be brave.
Clear a path through jungles of shame and doubt and fear.
I’m done with silence. I proclaim.

It shall be and it sings from within.

Truly we are enraptured
With Whitmanesque urge and urgency.

I vow to love in all seasons.
When you’re summer, I’m watermelon balled up in a sky-blue bowl.
When I’m autumn, you’re foliage ablaze in New England.
When in winter, I am the tender scarf of warm mercies.
When in spring, you are the bourgeoning buds.

I vow to love you in all places.
High plains, prairies, hills and lowlands.
In our dream-laden bed,
Cradled in the nest
Of your neck.
Deep in the plum.

It shall be and it flows with you.

We’ll leap over the waters and barbaric rooftops.

You embrace my resilient metropolis.
I adore your nourishing wilderness.

I vow to love you in primal ways.
I vow to love you in infinite forms.

In our separateness and composites.
To dust and stars and the ever after.

Intrepid travelers, lovers, and family
We have arrived.

Look. The bird has come home to roost.

About the Poet

Joseph O. Legaspi was born in the Philippines, where he lived before immigrating to Los Angeles with his family at age twelve. He received a BA from Loyola Marymount University and an MFA from New York University’s Creative Writing Program. Legaspi is the author of the collection Subway (CreateSpace, 2013), Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017), and Imago (CavanKerry Press, 2007), winner of a Global Filipino Literary Award. He is the recipient of two poetry fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and in 2004 he cofounded Kundiman, a nonprofit organization serving Asian American poetry. He works at Columbia University, teaches at New York University and Fordham University, and lives with his husband in Queens, New York.



It Has Gotten Better

I saw this video and had tears in my eyes when it was over. This is very much my story. I, too, grew up in the Bible Belt. I’m not sure what part of Alabama he grew up in, but I grew up in a rural area in the southern part of Alabama. Everyone but me seemed to know I was gay. I got called faggot, queer, sissy, gay, etc., all before I knew what any of it meant. People mocked me for my voice and mannerisms. I couldn’t do much about my voice, but I did change my mannerisms to be less “effeminate” in the bullies’ eyes. Those bullies made it all sound like it was the worst thing in the world to be gay, and I “knew” I didn’t want to be gay. It was unthinkable, and no matter what I did, the bullying did not stop until I went away to college. It took me years to accept myself. Just like him, this was in the 1990s. I also was in high school from 1992-1996. While he found theater and it saved his life, I found the internet and began researching, which saved my life. I finally had access to some of the answers I so desperately needed. This blog has also helped me to “find” myself.

The story of my sophomore year was a bit different from his. My best friend was a girl. (She’s now a Trump loving Republican, and we no longer speak.) But back then she was my cover in a way. I guess she was my “beard,” but it really didn’t seem to change anyone’s perceptions of me. I was still the intelligent, effeminate teenager whose most of his friends were girls, but never his girlfriend. Instead of hiding my friendship, I tried to hide my true self using that friendship. However, during that sophomore year when I was 16, the bullying got so bad, I took a handful of pills. I’d been on Ativan for my migraines. The doctor had taken me off of them, but I still had part of a bottle. I took all I had left hoping this would end my misery. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough for an overdose, and I just became violently ill.

I hated high school, just like I’d hated middle school. I hated all my years at that small private school in Alabama. I remember in kindergarten, my teacher forced me to take a toy truck to the playground and play with the other boys. I preferred to play with the girls. All of this came together to change who I was. I was a well-behaved kid at school, I was not a nice kid to my parents at home. I backtalked a lot and was constantly in trouble for it. I hated my dad’s rule of “Do as I say, not as I do.” At one point, my parents wanted to send me away to a boarding school. I wanted to find one for the academics and opportunities it might provide, and they wanted me out of their hair. They didn’t want to send me to a school for kids with severe behavioral problems, and I didn’t want to go to a military school. We did a bit of research into boarding schools. I wanted to be sent to an all-boys school, which in hindsight would probably had been just as bad as what I was going through. Eventually, they figured out that I wanted to be sent away, and they dropped the idea.

I have struggled much of my life with my sexuality. I’d say it could be one of the reasons for my migraines, but I’ve had migraines my whole life, even before I started school. I have had some miserable periods in my life. College and graduate school were different, but I always struggled with having enough money during those years. I was the typical poor college student, which added to my anxiety. Then, as a high school teacher, I seemed to hit rock bottom. I am a good teacher, but I was teaching spoiled rich kids who made my behavioral issues in high school seem minor. I was a good kid except when alone with my parents. My students were hateful, disobedient, and lazy, and I felt like I was more of a babysitter than a teacher. My bad temper came out a lot more than I’d have wanted. I wish I could have been calmer when dealing with them, but they often brought me to the brink. Teaching at a private school was by far the most difficult and worst job I’ve ever had. I was not cut out for teaching secondary school. I always did much better teaching college.

Only in the last few years have I begun to fully accept myself. It took moving 1,400 miles away to a mostly solid blue state to be happy, and to get a fairly decent paying job. Mostly these days, I am happy. I do struggle with some health issues (chronic migraines, diabetes, my weight, my brittle teeth), but even those seem to be getting under control. The Botox treatments seem to be working; my diabetes seems to be under control; and I’ve been losing weight, though I still have more weight I need to lose. My teeth are still a work in progress (I have to go to the dentist for a broken tooth this morning), but hopefully, things will get better in the dental department as well.

The most important thing is that I have accept who I am, and I am proud of my sexuality. Yes, I still have to be in the closet when I go home in an effort to appease my family, but one day, I hope and pray this too shall pass. I live my life as an out gay man here in Vermont, and I am unapologetically gay. Vermont has laws protecting gay people from discrimination, and the university I work for has anti-discrimination policies. I don’t have to put up with homophobia here. It’s not perfect, and I’m still getting comfortable in my own skin, but it has gotten better. Isn’t that what we all hope for when dealing with our sexuality?

The It Gets Better Project is a nonprofit organization with a mission to uplift, empower, and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth around the globe.

Gay Christian Pride

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

-2 Corinthians 7:4

For those of us who were raised in a strict Christian environment, we had to learn not to hate ourselves and to accept who we are and our sexuality. Some Christians are opposed to the concept of LGBTQ+ pride. They feel LGBTQ+ people should be ashamed of who we are, and any public celebration of LGBTQ+ sexuality is wrong. Those who reject us are those who are straying from the teachings of Jesus. I still believe in the teachings of Christ and believe that God created me just the way I am. I learned to accept myself and be proud of who I am. I am proud to be both gay and Christian.

Christians who know church history can identify with persecution. During the early years of the Christian church, Christians were put in prison and killed for their faith. The civil authorities in the Roman Empire were persecuting people for being Christian. Both Christianity and the LGBTQ+ community share a history of discrimination and persecution. Unfortunately, discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ+ people continue today, largely led by people claiming to be Christian. Some Christians do not understand how much they have in common with the LGBTQ+ community. Instead of working closely together to ensure their mutual human rights are respected, many Christians actively work to keep LGBTQ+ people from having the same rights other members of society enjoy.

The LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall Riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

LGBTQ+ pride promotes the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ people. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBTQ+ rights movements. Ranging from solemn to carnivalesque, pride events are typically held during the month of June. Some pride events include LGBT pride parades and marches, rallies, commemorations, community days, dance parties, and festivals. Pride may be considered one of the seven deadly sins, but there is nothing wrong with LGBTQ+ people having self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility. In fact, God expects us to have pride, a pride that is justifiable and reasonable, because it is based on what God has done for humanity.

God chose humanity before the world was created. Ephesians 1:4, we are told, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” God did not wait to see how things would go before choosing humanity. According to Ephesians we were chosen before the world was around, before we had a chance to do anything that would make God favor us. We did not have to act loving, do impressive humanitarian work, wear designer clothes, or make love to the right person to earn God’s love. God’s love for us is not a new, fickle love. His love for all of us, no matter our sexuality, is as old as time. God loved us, just the way we are. We can take pride in the fact that God sought us out and chose us before the world was created. In 2 Corinthians 7:4, we are told that God as “great pride” in us.

Isaiah Chapter 44 says God formed us in the womb. It does not say, “God created heterosexual people in the womb,” but it says that God, “formed you from the womb and will help you.” (Isaiah 44:2) We are not an accident in God’s eyes. We are not defective like some Christians would have us believe. God formed us in the womb and made us who we are. Galatians 1:15 states the Paul was chosen before he was born, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.”. Just like Paul, we were chosen to be an LGBTQ+ Christian (if that’s how you identify) before we were born. We can have pride, because God chose us and picked us to be on children.

Genesis tells humans, again, no matter their sexuality, were created in God’s image. Anything made in the image of God is valuable. We can have pride because we are a valuable masterpiece. God did not make a mistake when he created us with the varying sexualities that exist in this world. Romans 5:8-9 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” In Greek, the word justify carries the meaning to vindicate, approve, and honor. LGBTQ+ Christians are vindicated, approved, and honored by God, no matter our sexuality, because of Christ’s death on the cross. And nobody, gay or straight, has the right or the authority to put down or condemn people God has vindicated, approved, and honored.

LGBTQ+ Christians have the same reasons to have pride as straight Christians. Gay and straight Christians are equally called before the world was created, are equally formed in the womb by God and are equally redeemed by God. LGBTQ+ Christians can and should have pride in who they are by creation, by birth, and in Christ. To advocate that LGBTQ+ Christians should not have pride is to advocate that LGBTQ+ people feel and express no gratitude to God. When LGBTQ+ Christians are denied LGBTQ+ pride, they are asked to deny their Creator’s role in their creation and birth. It denies Christ’s role in our salvation.

Some LGBTQ+ people find pride to be one time of the year when they do not feel alone, isolated, cut-off, rejected, hated, and despised. Pride helps LGBTQ+ people feel they are not a tiny, powerless minority group. Through pride, many LGBTQ+ people find a sense of belonging, a sense of being worthwhile. Society has long taught LGBTQ+ people to hate themselves. By celebrating pride, the LGBTQ+ community can start the long process of overcoming self-hate. Standing side-by-side with God, LGBTQ+ Christians are accepted, loved, connected, and made powerful by God.

LGBTQ+ Christians can find meaning in pride. God wants LGBTQ+ people to stop hating and fearing themselves, because those who live secret lives of pain are not able to fully celebrate their identity in Christ. Through LGBTQ+ pride, God calls LGBTQ+ Christians to live as though the world waits for them, waits for them to passionately praise God, to love as faithfully as God loves and to celebrate life, as they walk hand-in-hand with Christ into eternity.