Despite the fact that Ireland has voted in Marriage Equality and it seems that not being straight and cis-gender is more acceptable than ever, it is important to acknowledge that members of the LGBTQ community continue to face discrimination every day and events such as Pride remain necessary to both show support for the community and to allow a safe space where everyone,regardless of sexuality, age or gender, can feel accepted and loved. It can be easy to think that in more progressive countries, gay people face no problems, but even in Ireland, the first country to vote in Marriage Equality by popular vote, members of the LGBTQ community face regular discrimination and isolation, as shown by the recent vandalisation of The George. To some, Pride is a fun event for dressing up in rainbow clothes and partying the night away, but for many others, it is so much more. It allows people to feel not only accepted, but celebrated, to feel normal in a world which often paints them as anything but. Pride is about so much more than gaypride, it is about liberation, inclusion and support. It is a celebration, a declaration and a haven.
The festival has particular importance for younger gay people. The festival, which includes events such as the kids parade, shows young people struggling with their sexuality that they are normal, that there are other people feeling the same way as them and people will accept and love them, no matter who they are attracted to. For people who are struggling with their sexuality, or on the cusp of coming out, somewhere like Pride can be a source of comfort and confidence. A festival full of people celebrating a part of their personality which may be the very part that makes them feel different or unloveable, helps show people struggling that their sexuality is not something to be hidden, it is something to be proud of. Pride is a way to say ‘this is who I am and I am proud.’
Photo from www.irishtimes.com
Just like the LGBTQ community itself, everyone is welcome at Pride. It is a place which embraces everyone from gay to straight, pansexual to transexual. It is important to remember that while gay, lesbian and bisexual are becoming more and more accepted and normalised, there are many other sexualities and genders that are not as known or accepted, such as pansexual, asexual, polysexual and transexual. Pride celebrates all of these and allows all types of marginalised people worldwide to feel powerful and as if they have a voice. Pride is a way for straight people to lend their support to the community, to acknowledge that straight privilege is dominant in society and show that they want that to change. Pride is a way to educate straight, cis-gender people on LGBTQ culture and help gain more tolerance and acceptance. It is the one place where members of the community are not only accepted, but celebrated. It is a place for them to connect with other members and feel united and strong.
Anyone who thinks there is no need for events like Pride or that being gay is completely accepted in today’s society, need only look at events such as the banning of homosexuality in Russia among many other countries, the Orlando shooting, the refusal by many to accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman and stop referring to her as Bruce or ‘him,’ or, more close to home, the Vote No campaign in the Marriage Equality referendum. One of their most used arguments was that gay couples should not be parents, many said ‘oh they can be together, but they shouldn’t be allowed have kids, it’s not fair on the kids,’ or that they were destroying the ‘sanctity of marriage’ by daring to try and spend their life with the person they love. Attitudes such as this are the reason events such as Pride are still needed. It is only when members of the LGBTQ community are regarded as exactly the same as everyone else, just as capable of being parents or allowed to get married as they choose, that full equality will have been achieved. Perhaps then Pride will no longer be as important as it is now, but until we reach that point, it is still necessary to get out there and support the cause.
Photo from www.dailyedge.ie
Many people argue that Pride has become a spectacle and perhaps it has, but the overriding message behind it is still there, we are not afraid, we are not different, we are proud. Members of the LGBTQ community are told everyday that they are different, weird, not as important as straight people, they face violence and often subtle discrimination in the form of straight privilege. This can be something like a tv show not being willing to show a gay kiss in comparison to the multiple heterosexual kisses shown without problems, or gay storylines still being a rarity and seen as controversial. Pride is somewhere where members of the LGBTQ community are instead told that they are normal, important, loved and accepted, where their sexuality is not their defining feature which makes them stand out, but simply just another part of the person they are. It is not something to hide, downplay or be ashamed of, it is something to be proud of. Pride allows us to see the LGBTQ community not as numbers, statistics or a caricature, but as real people. It reminds us of the struggle faced by the community, as it can seem bizarre that in 2017 we still need to have something like Pride to let people know that they are just as valued in society as everyone else, but we do and it is getting this message across that is the most important aspect of the festival. Pride reminds us that we still have a long way to go for reaching full equality and acceptance, but reassures us that we are certainly on the right track.
Gay Pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but the right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a Straight Pride movement, be thankful we don’t need one.
For info on this years pride check out dublinpride.ie