Why we get a whole month (icon Independent Weekly News, June 4-10, 1998)

As June begins with its plethora of events focused around Pride Month for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people (GLBT), many of you might be asking, why do “they” get a whole month to celebrate their sexual orientation? What happened to heterosexual pride month? What can’t there be heterosexual evens, such as bowling, fishing trips, “straight socials,” and stock car racing instead of art shows, “queer mingles,” dances, gay garden tours, and parades?

Quit simply 365 days a year celebrates and supports heterosexuality without even a second thought. June is for queers. (I realize, of course, that I am stereotyping orientation-specific events. To be fair, there are some pretty talented dykey stock car races and queen fishers.)

Wonderful benefits abound from having a month celebrating the GLBT community. Perhaps the most important are visibility, visibility, and visibility. It is invaluable to have a whole month with scheduled social and educational events where you can find both GLBTs and allies. Not only is it a lot of fun for people who are already out of the closet, but for those who are only a coat hanger away, the celebration of gay pride month offers the extra safety and support that is necessary in the coming out process. When else can you hold your same-sex partner’s hand with zero worries? There is definitely safety in numbers and Pride Month offers an affirming and accepting environment in which you can be comfortable in your own skin without having to constantly look over your shoulder. It inhibits the chameleon-like desire to change orientations depending on who is around.

The concept of being proud of your orientation might strike some as odd. Heterosexuals are not usually seen as wearing “breeder” T-shirts or having bumper stickers that say, “I’m not heterosexual, but my husband is.” I have yet to see a parade where heterosexuals chant, “I date, I’m straight, get used to it.”

Unfortunately, when you are born, it is simply assumed that you are heterosexual. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were no assumptions and your family just waited to see whom you loved? Granted, if this were the case, we probably wouldn’t need a month to celebrating GLBT pride. If would seem as bizarre as having pride month for heterosexuals.

Breaking this bubble of assumption can be very challenging. Therefore, for some, it is essential to be proud of who you are in order to deflect the negative reactions, the general ignorance, and the fear toward anyone who is “different.” It is our ability to get over internal, as well as external, homophobia that allows us to accept and love ourselves regardless of other people’s reactions, It allows us the right and luxury of feeling normal when we experience feelings toward someone of the same sex, when we are misrepresented in the media, ignored in sex-education classes, openly condemnded by the Christian Right, and in so many ways not affored equal rights. Pride gives us the strength to not have to play the pronoun game when we got to work on Monday morning: “yeah, ‘we’ had a great time, except ‘they’ had food poisoning and ‘we’ were up all night.” When we go home for the holidays, it saves us from having to explain why our “roommate,” our “buddy” is the single most important person in our lives.

I do not intend to trivialize the coming out process. It can be an extremely difficult and heart-wrenching experience. I just want to point out the advantages of having a whole month where helpful resources and knowledgeable people are so easily accessible. It is the discovery of these resources during Pride Month that can provide assistance for the rest of the year.

Being proud and visible does come with some risks, however. There is something to be said for the subtlety of just being who you are, of being proud of yourself without feeling the need to wear your orientation on your sleeve. Being visible and out is not advantageous to everyone. It can make your life a little more scary and in some places, a little more dangerous. Yet, this is another reason why celebrating Pride Month is so wonderful. For 30 days, visibility is that much easier, that much safer, and sometimes, even that much more fun. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth the risk.

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