The following reflection was written by #TeamTangible’s Inclusion Strategist, Bree Becker. Follow Bree on LinkedIn (click here).
The first Pride I attended was entirely by accident. Leaving a family event in New York City in 1993, my parents, younger sister, and I accidentally walked directly into the NYC Pride Parade route. I have two distinct impressions from that encounter:
the outfits were incredibly risque (and awesome) by my tween standards, and
the defiant, insistent joy was palpable.
I know now that this was still in the thick of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and not even 25 years after the Stonewall Uprising (a series of spontaneous demonstrations led by trans and gender non-conforming BIPOC community members in the streets of NYC outside of the Stonewall Inn in 1969). This was the genesis of what has become Pride Month and what is being referenced if you have ever heard “the first Pride was a riot.”
In 2021, with more years between today and my first Pride encounter than there were between 1969 and 1993, the LGBTQ+ community has made enormous strides, come out into the public spotlight in ways I could have barely imagined in my childhood, and gained previously denied legal rights and protections. But still, we also continue to be marginalized, and our legal rights and protections often shift with the political winds. This is only the sixth June wedding season where all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, can legally marry in every state in the United States; nation-wide marriage equality will be a mere seven years old at the end of this Pride Month. Only in the last year were LGBTQ+ people extended the same legal protections in employment, housing, etc. that already existed for many other aspects of identity. LBGTQ+ folks are disproportionately targeted in a variety of ways, including the ongoing murders of Black trans women. We have come so far and still have so far to go.
Yet, with all of the possible threats and the constant two steps forward and one (or more) steps back, the defiant, insistent joy is there. Pride Month and Pride events are, at their core, a chance for the LGBTQ+ community to, sometimes literally, walk down the middle of the street in broad daylight and declare the validity, value, and vibrance of our community, relationships, families, lives, and identities. That defiant, insistent joy built a thriving underground community before living publicly out lives was possible for more than the smallest handful of people. It sustained people who had to live most of their lives in the closet. It galvanized us to fight the scourge of AIDS and changed both governmental policy and the future of medicine. It buoyed us through long, ongoing fights for rights, medical care, equal protection under the law, and safety and acceptance in society. And it meant, for me like so many others before me, that I had good ancestors to look to in the LGBTQ+ community which is so important because, unlike most other core identities, LGBTQ+ people are not typically born to or raised by LGBTQ+ parents.
This Pride Month I invite you to embrace that defiant, insistent joy—if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ for yourself and if you’re not, to embrace the power and necessity of that joy. I invite you to commit to breaking down barriers to that joy—in your work, your society, and yourself. And I invite you to see Pride through my middle school eyes: an extraordinary celebration of living as your whole self in the shining light of day to be witnessed by anyone and everyone.
Happy Pride month from #TeamTangible and my younger self! May you be engulfed by the joy, work to ensure that joy and liberation is possible for all members of the LGBTQ+ community through meaningful action and speech, and revel in just how awesome it is to be able to live as your true self in public. None of the folks I saw dancing on floats at NYC Pride decades ago had any awareness of me, but they changed my world forever. And every single one of us has the potential to be that change for the next generation–by modeling LGBTQ+ lives that are joyful and full, even in the face of tremendous challenges, and by supporting and fighting for change that allows and encourages that possibility.