The Importance of Pride in Fostering a Free World

Yesterday, I went downtown with a friend to attend the raising ceremony of the pride flag in Merced. It was a lovely event with many speakers sharing their stories, why they feel pride matters, and why it’s important we continue to create an inclusive environment for all. It was a safe and open event and it got people talking, and now it’s got me talking, and I want to talk about why I feel pride to be essential to a free society.

One of the speakers told the story of his gay uncle who lived in Merced in the 90s who was unfortunately the victim of a hate crime that cost him his life. His body was found burned by people who feel hatred towards LGBT+ individuals, when he himself had lived a life full of love. It’s historically been dangerous to be LGBT+. In many parts of the country, it still is. Ostracization, hate, and violence are not just key elements in the stories of the most vocal members of the LGBT+ community, they’re key elements in the stories of all members of the community.

LGBT+ individuals often feel the need to hide their identity from their family, friends, and the world. It’s only because of the work and sacrifice of those of the past to spark and continue a positive cultural shift in our society that people today can come out of the closet with less fear of being hate-crimed. The world isn’t becoming “more gay” as some people might be thinking – people are just becoming more and more comfortable with expressing their true selves. There are more and more people who, witnessing that there are communities who will accept them for who they are, can come out of the closet and truly express their real identities.

We’re not making the world “more gay.” We’re making the world safer for LGBT+ people to live in so they don’t need to hide – they shouldn’t have to hide. Pride month is a huge achievement, and hanging up a pride flag is a huge achievement, but this world is still imperfect and full of hate. There’s still work to be done to make this world accepting of all people’s identities, whether it be gender or sexual orientation, or race, religion, ability, and more. Even at our flag-raising ceremony, there were still counter protesters from the Tea Party who saw the pride flag as an enemy.

This brings me to why I believe that pride is important to fostering a free world. I’m someone who cares passionately about freedom, free speech, and free expression. I believe that only in a safe space where all people can feel that they can express to the fullest extent their true identities may we have a genuine discussion. If it is illegal to be LGBT+, if it is illegal to marry the person you love or identify with another gender, then it is the same as silencing their voices.

In order to create an environment of free expression and free speech, in order to create an environment where we can truly discuss issues and voice concerns and find real solutions, we must make sure that all members of our discussion are expressing themselves, not what society molds them to be. I want to hear what you want to say, not what you have to say because of societal restrictions on who you can or cannot be. You shouldn’t have to hide. You should be able to express your identity and voice your viewpoint. It’s important we protect pride.

I see you and I want to hear your voice.

Happy trails.