Kerry Mahony questions whether the time has come to say goodbye to Pride.
This summer you would have undoubtedly seen posts about Pride on social media. Facebook introduced a Pride react emoji, and Instagram and Snapchat followed suit with rainbow-themed stickers and filters. During Pride season, streets of cities all over the world are decorated with rainbow flags; activist groups come together to prepare their banners and signs for the march; and shops universally sell out of glitter. It’s a chaotic, blissful, love-filled time. But, you may ask - in today’s world, is Pride still really necessary?
Last bank holiday weekend I attended my first Pride parade in Cork. Celebrations had kicked off at the start of the week, but we started on the Saturday with a drag show in Chambers. A delayed flight for Alyssa Edwards and a lost purse for me meant that the night was less than perfect, but still definitely a lot of fun.
The next day we dragged our sore heads into the city centre to attend the parade. The atmosphere was fantastic. People of all ages donned their raincoats, painted their faces, and came out to listen to music and enjoy the celebrations. Companies like Apple marched to show their support, and many people even gave their dogs rainbow attire for the occasion. We ended the night with more dancing and many more drinks. It’s safe to say that the weekend destroyed me, in the best way possible.
Pride season always brings up debates. Many people would argue that, in 2017, there is no longer any need for it. After all, Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum passed in 2015. “The gays have their rights now,” someone said to me once, “so there’s no need to go around shoving it in people’s faces.”
Here’s the thing: there is a lot more to the LGBTQ+ community than just gay people. While you would be relatively safe holding hands as a same-sex couple in a large Irish city, transgender people still face the threat of harassment.
2015 saw Ireland pass the Gender Recognition Act, which allows trans people to legally recognise their gender and acquire a new birth certificate. This was huge for the trans community, but there is still much more to be done. Waiting lists for hormones are massive, leaving transgender waiting for years to begin hormone treatments, and most have to travel abroad for surgery as Irish services are inadequate. Non-binary identities are still not recognised, asexual people face huge amounts of stigma and misunderstanding; the list goes on.
Pride is for these people. It is the one weekend where people can embrace themselves freely; the one weekend where LGBTQ+ people can feel like a majority, not outsiders. People can wear what they want without fear of judgement or harassment. For young LGBTQ+ people, especially ones from rural areas, this is so important. They may come from backgrounds that are less accepting, or have friends who don’t understand them. For many, it will be the first time they truly feel like part of a community.
Sure, gay couples can get married now, but being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is still not easy. The mass media is saturated with images of heterosexual couples, and queer characters on TV are often reduced to offensive stereotypes. Same-sex relationships are either trivialised and labelled a ‘phase’ or fetishized. Pride means standing up to all of this - it means refusing to be ignored, standing up and letting people know that I’m here, and I’m real, and I want to be recognised.
Pride began as a protest, from the first bricks thrown at Stonewall in 1969 to the 75,000 people who attended the march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979. Back then, supporting the queer community didn’t make you look cool and progressive; it was dangerous. LGBTQ+ individuals risked and lost their lives so we can enjoy the privileges and freedom we have today. We must never forget this.
Pride should still be a protest. This is not to say that you can’t drink or enjoy yourself; and if you saw my glitter-covered self on Sunday night you would know I’m definitely in no place to judge. However, it is important to remember the people who fought for the LGBTQ+ community when they had a lot more to lose. We are incredibly lucky to live in such a progressive country. We should try our best to support those in oppressive environments, and to raise them up however we can.
Even if some day we manage reach a fully free and equal society, I still hope we have Pride. At the end of the day, it’s all about love; and in today’s world, I think it’s something of which we need a lot more.
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