Pride? Who told you that you had anything to be proud about? You were the wretched of the Earth, the lowest of the low – the despised, the misfits, the outsiders, the outcasts, the freaks, the queers, the perverts, the deviants – the ones who had no right to self-respect. You were the marginalized; the poor people of color, the drag queens, the members of a transgender community still in its infancy, the sex workers, the homeless young people who slept in Christopher Park. But you were the ones who, when backed up against the wall in the Stonewall Inn, found your courage, and claimed your souls and your pride. You could not possibly have known, in that frenzied week, how deeply you would affect the lives of those of us who followed you; but we stand on your shoulders, we reap the rewards of your courage, we are your heirs. Especially this year, it is vital that we remember you, because you remind us of what Pride really means. Pride began in and as Resistance.
I remember those early San Francisco Pride marches in the ‘70’s – walking up Market Street holding hands with my boyfriend – in an era when even that simple act was a gesture of resistance. Over time, as our communities grew stronger, many complained that Pride had lost its edge. More and more Pride Sundays were all about beer, hot dogs, balloons and music. I didn’t object, because to me play and celebration were expressions of Pride, and visible affirmation of our strength. Today, LGBTQ communities in this country are the most powerful and confident we have ever been. We know that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and that we still face many threats, but we also know that our rise has been one of the most remarkable success stories in American political and cultural history.
But this year we celebrate in a time when the country seems to have lost its way. The grifter who currently sits in the White House rose to power by riding the politics of rage and resentment. In his destructive and divisive “policies,” he is enabled and abetted by a party which is no longer a political party at all in any traditional sense, but a right-wing cult that stands for no discernible values beyond the enrichment of oligarchs. Many people have already been hurt, and many more will be harmed before this dark time in our history ends. How do we manifest our Pride in an era of reaction?
We resist. I believe that it is our civic duty to use all effective nonviolent tools available to us to protect and defend those who Trump targets, and to oppose, resist, and thwart this vile regime in every way we can.
Pride is the most basic of all progressive values, entailing all the rest. If individually, it means exercising our right to the pursuit of our own happiness, then socially, it means honoring the same right in others; which in turn means cherishing, protecting, and defending, the wondrous diversity that characterizes our species. If pride means living in our own truth, then it also means speaking truth to power, loyalty to factual reality before ideology, science over superstition, reason over irrationality, truth over collective delusion. In political life, it means committing ourselves to one guiding intention – to act politically to help create a world in which all may live in pride. That, in turn, means standing against racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, jingoism, and the exploitation of the weak by the strong. In this time, to live from Pride is to resist.
How do we begin to tackle such a responsibility? We begin at home. The personal is the political. Decades ago I read a simple sentence that the writer Paul Goodman penned which has stayed with me ever since. He wrote “We create the kind of world we want to live in by doing what we want to do.” By resolutely living the one unique life that is in each of us to live, we take a fundamental stand for integrity and freedom; and against the hatred, irrationality, and authoritarianism which currently threatens us all. When we live in this place of pride, whatever specific political actions we take will manifest our unified resistance.
I believe that when the history of this time is written, it will show that LGBTQ people across the country stood united in defense of life and freedom, fought to defend democracy, and worked to create a world in which no one need be afraid of love. My beautiful sisters and brothers everywhere, resist!