Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, the annual Pride festival can be one of the party highlights of the year. When you imagine Pride, you probably think of hundreds and even thousands of people going out to party in rainbow themed attire and face paint. Seeing everyone openly celebrate who they are and showing pride in their LGBTQ+ identity is a heart-warming sight to see, and it’s wonderful to see our straight allies take part in the celebrations.
But for many, Pride is more than just a party. For years and years, LGBTQ+ people have been jailed, tortured and even killed because of how they are born (and still are in some parts of the world). With gay people being beaten up and killed in Chechnya, and being beheaded in parts of the Middle East, there is still a long way to go in achieving full acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in the 21st Century.
For many people, pride is a time when we can remember LGBTQ+ people who had much harder time being their true selves than we did, whether that was facing discrimination, humiliation or even violent attacks.
Everyone is always welcome at Pride festivals, which is one of the amazing things about Pride. No matter what race you are, no matter what gender you identify as, no matter what your religion is and no matter what your sexual orientation is, you are welcome to Pride with open arms. But with this openness, you may be met with the expectation that you respect the festival and the reason it is celebrated. If we all want to join in the celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and have fun supporting our LGBTQ+ peers, we should acknowledge the struggle that the LGBTQ+ community has historically gone through. We are celebrating the fact that after years of being judged, discriminated against, out-casted and violently attacked, LGBTQ+ acceptance is increasing, and more and more LGBTQ people feel comfortable with their identity. We are also making a statement that hate and abuse will not stop LGBTQ+ people being proud and confident. If we are enjoying all that is fun and exciting about the festival, then we should recognise the struggle that people have gone through to make this sort of acceptance and celebration possible.
Often leading up to the annual festival, we might hear the question “why isn’t there a straight pride, though?” being tossed around. This train of thought is understandable, as Pride is supposed to celebrate equality and acceptance of all, and to make it solely ‘gay pride’ or ‘LGBTQ+ pride’ may lead people to think that this simply creates more divide. But the reality is that every other day is kind of a straight pride celebration. It is generally presumed that a straight couple can stroll down the street hand in hand without the fear that they will be judged or harassed for doing so. The same is not the case for an LGBTQ+ couple. With Ireland’s most popular gay night club, The George, being vandalised with homophobic slurs during the summer, it’s obvious that homophobia is still a problem even today in Ireland, and it’s understandable why gay couples may be hesitant to openly display their love in public the way their straight peers can.
In a world where large amounts of people and organisations still see gay pairings as ‘evil’, ‘disgusting’ and as a sin that will buy you a one way ticket to hell, it is important to stand up, march and let the world know that we are who we are, we love ourselves and we love each other, and that all of the humiliation, discrimination and judgement in the world will not change who we are, and more importantly how much we love and want to celebrate our LGBTQ+ identities and our LGBTQ+ peers.