Party or advocacy: What’s Pride really for?

Posted on 18 Sep 2015 at 9:50am



Deneen RobinsonIt is an interesting time in the LGBT community. It is very much like A Tale of Two Cities: We have the best of times and the worst of times happening all at the same time. As we approach another Pride celebration, it is important that we take a moment to reflect on our pride.

By definition, “pride” means “self-esteem; self-respect and gratification arising from association with something laudable.” We have much to celebrate at this time in our community. Should we choose, we can legally marry in every state in the United States and a number of other countries. My love is celebrated just like every one else’s.

But at the same time, there are places that will not give me a marriage license because of one government worker’s religious convictions. These people act as if they are the ones being persecuted.

There are more and more places where we are able to experience the freedom of expressing our love with fewer and fewer side-eyes while our peers in some parts of Africa have to hide their sexuality just to save their own lives. And even here in Dallas, there are still individuals that are not fully free to celebrate their sexuality.

So how do they celebrate Pride? In many cases, those folks find gratification in their association with the larger LGBT community.

But what are we doing to ensure that those folks have a chance at personal self-esteem and self-respect as it relates to their sexuality or self expression?

We have this yearly celebration, but why? For many of us, it is to celebrate the accomplishments of our community. Others see it simply as a chance to party. In many cases, the divide is along the lines of age and level of activism. Why is that?

In my opinion, the older individuals are living their history and they remember. They remember what it took to get here where we are today.

As someone living with HIV, I have moments where I am genuinely frustrated by the cavalier attitude that exists in a particular subset of our community. HIV is a devastating disease that can now be managed for many of us with medications and some lifestyle changes but not cured. And yet, we are still trying to get our community to take our sexual health seriously enough to discuss risks and work to remain HIV-negative.

It is interesting to me that we choose this time of Pride to lay bare both the best of ourselves and the worst of ourselves, all at the same time. Why would we not just want to express all the laudable things that have been accomplished in the previous year? Why do we consider it a let-it-all-out, let-your-hair-down-and-bare-it-all kind of moment in our year?

I venture to say it is because so many of us have masks — perceived or real — that we still have to wear daily. And we need a moment to breathe. I think it is because we are thrilled as a tribe to celebrate the accomplishments of the our shared history. I think it is a time for families of choice to gather and honor the gift they are to each other.

And lastly, I think it is because some people simply just want to party and this gives them a reason to do just that.

For those folks that just want a party, Pride is definitely a time to do that. After all, every bar on The Strip and in other parts of the community create avenues to ensure the party happens.

But when do we realize that all this partying can damage a person’s pride? Individuals lose respect for themselves and can engage in behaviors that are damning to their self-esteem. Is it the responsibility of the community to stop the party, or should we find ways to manage the it?

Do we even think of this as a community issue? I know some of us do because we support the organizations that are there to assist folks with addictions, with HIV and with church and mental health issues.

We have to find balance. After all, true Pride is both the combination of the party and the advocacy. There must be the moment when you recognize that the work is necessary and there must be a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the work.

We must have a time to honor each other and our shared history. We must have a moment to lift up each other’s self esteem. And We must elevate and celebrate the accomplishments of our community.

We must have and live and show our Pride.
The Rev. Deneen Robinson is managing elder of external ministries for Living Faith Covenant Church and co-chair of faith and religion for the Human Rights Campaign’s DFW Steering Committee.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.

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