The rainbow flags are flying high this month, so any support and awareness I can spread, the better.
June marks LGBT Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
Originally considering this post idea, I didn’t know if it was necessary. LGBTQ awareness has become much more prevalent in such a short amount of time. So many people feel empowered to step forward to fully embody themselves, however that may look. We’re shedding more light on what gender and sexuality truly are. We’re seeing far more representation of LGBTQ characters and figures everywhere we turn, and these changes are so heartwarming to me.
Except not everybody is following suit. The sheer fact that once Trump was inaugurated, the White House’s LGBTQ page was removed. As if an entire population just doesn’t exist. Going back to a time where not only was the community invisible, but any sight of it was shameful.
I even still see it in the everyday microaggressions around me. People making snide remarks, using slurs, considering violence against innocent people just living their lives. Not to mention the vast expanse of places where homosexuality is illegal, worthy of death. I don’t care who you are, but if you don’t have the heart to support a fellow human being, trying to reach the same goals as anybody else, to find happiness in their short lifespans, then I just hope you eventually will find some empathy and understanding.
Our way of thinking about gender and sexuality has transformed completely. I grew up never knowing people weren’t just heterosexual. I only knew the binary colors and activities of boys and girls. I didn’t know there was any difference between sex and gender. But as I’ve watched the LGBTQ community evolve and feel more welcome into the public setting, I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned.
Some of the best people I’ve met and friends I’ve made are members of this community. I love being able to better understand them and myself when it comes to perceiving the world, from feeling dejected and nonexistent and irrelevant. To fighting the stigmas and stereotypes we assume of those who identify in the LGBTQ community and realize the many ethnicities, religions, lifestyles, shapes and sizes that people can come in.
We’re all on a spectrum. Gender and sexuality are not stagnant, but fluid preferences that can fluctuate. People can enter the world knowing immediately that they love the same or both genders, that they don’t identify with their sex, that they’re different. To think of how many people, in the past, present and future, that may know themselves but never feel comfortable enough to share it with others, to always feel trapped in a dark corner, my heart aches. Or when loved ones completely denounce their children, friends or siblings, just for who they are. That’s not love.
And when we deny people their basic human rights, their freedoms and nonviolent desires to live a full life, that’s when people come desperate. We see skyrocketing rates of mental illness and substance abuse and suicide. Life is already hard, but to feel trampled upon by others, mocked for an aspect of yourself you have no control over? Nobody deserves that. If we don’t have access to stable means of support, if we don’t feel welcome leading a full life, it’s inevitable to feel hopeless, inadequate, a burden to others.
As with any other subject matter, our best form of defense against hate is education. An open mind willing to learn will always endure over a closed mind that may know “everything.” We keep growing every day in how we can create a society that promotes equality, and people will still try to fight back. It’s hard to change what we have always known, to allow marriage between the same genders, to have gender neutral bathrooms, to clarify in our policies that LGBTQ-identifying individuals are welcome and maintain the same rights as everybody else. We are creating new norms, accepting that asexuality is indeed a thing and not just in budding plants (an opinion I feel particularly strong about, might I add), using “they” as a singular pronoun for those who identify with both or neither gender.
With all of the supposed letters that can sometimes encompass the LGBTQ community, the actual labels of the people involved are of a lesser concern. The real purpose to focus on is a group of humans, coming together to fight for what’s right. A work in progress, but work that is well worth everything. The deaths of so many are not ideal, of course not, but it’s a part of our history, a history so many of us know only surface-level details about.
Regardless how you identify yourself, take this month to learn something new. Reach out to those who may be struggling. Celebrate our differences. The only way we can continue moving forward is to continue that essential dialogue, to remind ourselves of our humanity, an essence we all share. LGBTQ may feel very foreign, so different from what we’ve grown up knowing about how the world works, but guess what? Everything is more complicated than it seems. And the differences that we see dividing us by no means invalidate the similarities that thread us all together.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie