When I was a High School student in the 1990’s, there was a lot of criticism of what was then called the “Gay Pride Movement (I now refer to it as LGBTQ Pride).” It was not uncommon to hear “we don’t have straight pride, why do they need gay pride?” As a homophobe in my youth, I used to say this very thing. The criticism was that they were allowed to do something that we could not, and that in so doing they were pushing an “immoral agenda” down our throats. “I don’t want to see that.” “My children shouldn’t have to see that.” “They would riot if we had a straight pride parade!” These hateful ideas and statements stem from severe ignorance, and they haunt me to this day. They are black marks on my past, ever-present examples of the hateful person I used to be. It is now the year 2014, and I still hear “why gay pride? What about straight pride?” Well, there’s actually a very good answer for that.
According to most of what we know about world history, homosexual people were not seen as an issue in much of the ancient world. In writings and art where they are referenced, the majority of material demonstrates cultural attitudes ranging from reverence for those seen as “two-spirited,” all the way to acceptance, and down to indifference … never hate, intolerance, or fear of the unknown. Where homosexuality really begins to fall victim to stigma, and ultimately oppression, is when Christianity is introduced. The structure and doctrinal principles implemented at the Council Of Nicea in 325 AD rang the death knell for worldwide acceptance of people seen as “different.” Christianity would soon take hold as the global majority religion, and with it justification for all manner of crimes against humanity; not the least of which being slavery, apartheid, and the burning of “witches” and LGBTQ people at the stake. To this day, although slavery has been overturned, apartheid is finished, and women are no longer burned as “witches,” LGBTQ people are still hunted and killed in much of the world. It is oppression in its purest form, and there is not a single justification for it that does not have a religious undercurrent. So, why pride?
The Pride movement is all about taking a stand. It is about refusing to back down. It is about unapologetically taking ownership of one’s identity, and collectively standing firm against bigotry and oppression. More than that, LGBTQ Pride is necessary. The thousands who unabashedly march through the streets in Pride parades around the globe, dressed up in vibrant garb, or hardly dressed at all, send a clear message to the hundreds of thousands still living in the proverbial closet. That message is “you are not alone.” Pride is about community. It is about freedom. It is about the sexual minority finding comfort with themselves, and letting go of the fear that holds so many back from giving the world all that they have to offer. The Pride movement has pushed for legislative change, and is succeeding. It has pushed for education on LGBTQ issues, and is succeeding. It has pushed for protection under human rights charters, and is succeeding. Pride exists for humanity … it exists because love exists.
“So, why not straight pride?” This question isn’t really worthy of discussion, but I thought I would answer it anyway. The answer to this one is pretty simple, and should be obvious. Heterosexual people have never been stigmatized, ridiculed, hunted, or otherwise oppressed due to their sexual orientation. “Straight” people are the majority, and as such they enjoy the privilege of being socially accepted for their attraction to the opposite sex. Heterosexuality is not something that causes people to hunt and kill each other, heterosexual people were never burned at the stake for being “straight,” and they have never been labelled as “abominations” by the church. The LGBTQ Pride Movement is legitimized by the history behind it and what it stands for. The idea of “Straight Pride” is a pitiful attempt of the majority to keep their right to oppress. Fortunately, due to the sheer number of vocal LGBTQ groups and outspoken allies, that majority will eventually be brought into the fold on the right side of history … and those who remain steadfast in their opposition will take their views with them when they die.
I am a member of the heterosexual majority. I am known as an ally, and my story is proof that a person can go from extreme homophobe to passionate social advocate. It has been my honour to walk side-by-side with the LGBTQ community, and I intend to do so until my last breath. To me, Pride represents human resilience despite incredible odds. To me, it represents love. Standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community is something we should all be doing, for until we can accept all people for who they are, we have little hope. Pride exists because love exists. What better cause is there?