by Korie Houston
It’s the beginning of June. For many people, it’s the start of the summer; beaches, pool parties, vacations and fireworks. Sounds wonderful right?
Well Houston, we have a problem.
It happens to be Pride month during a time when legislators are attacking our rights from all angles, so I want to talk about what pride means to me, how to hold community for each other, and what it means to go beyond being an ally.
I’ve navigated topics of love, dating and so much more, but Pride is a time when there’s more important things on the table.
For those who don’t know, the first Pride was held on June 28, 1970. It was to commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall, which for all intents and purposes was a riot. It was a fight for survival, a fight for freedom and a fight for liberation. If I didn’t emphasize it enough, it continues to echo in the work of many organizations and activists to this day. There’s a reason why we need to hear names like Martha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Harvey Milk, and so many more. These are some of the most visible individuals, but I haven’t even scratched the surface. We could go down a rabbit hole that never ends to discuss the contributions of others. I want to remind our community, and those who are our staunch allies, that beyond the parties, parade floats, and glitter, there’s so much more to who we are.
I’ve participated in Pride since 2017. I wasn’t out before then (shocker, I know) and it was an unforgettable experience. I made new friends, celebrated with a loved one and truly felt in that moment what it meant to be in community. Since then, I’ve worked pride in one of our beloved queer spaces, marched in the parade with dear friends, and organized my own contingent to support students experiencing their first Pride.
Through my experiences, I’ve found that my meaning of Pride is being surrounded by people who would risk anything to know that we’re all going to be okay. It’s about carrying your heart on your sleeve and remembering that everyone in that moment feels like royalty. All in all, the beauty of Pride is in people coming together to celebrate one another. What happens when those celebrations are over? Do we return to the closet? Do people put their rainbows away? When I talk about allyship, I truly mean the advocacy that we invest in and the importance of showing up.
When our rights are taken away, who will get hit the hardest? We live in a time where it sometimes feels trendy to throw a rainbow on something and say, “We support you.” But support isn’t something that should just go away when it gets hard. Being an ally is the bare minimum, it’s just a label that anyone can use. Being an advocate is what makes or breaks the work of true allyship. Advocates are people who will stand up for you. People who will speak when they’re called upon and not take over the conversation. There are so many layers to this community that it can be daunting to know where to start. But it’s not always about knowing where to start, it’s about being the type of person that if someone ever came out to you as gay, trans, queer, or whatever term that may mean something to them in the moment, would you hold space in your heart and do whatever you could to get them the love and care they needed right then and there?
It’s easy for someone like me who’s been doing advocacy work for close to a decade to sit here and say it’s so simple. But it’s not and I understand. Times have changed though, and baseline work just isn’t going to cut it.
Here in San Diego, there are so many brilliant organizations and phenomenal people doing the work, and to me, that is exactly where we should start. I’m not here to say don’t celebrate Pride in the ways that make sense to you. Pride has many meanings for different people and at its core, it’s more than being about who we sleep with, who we choose to love and who we were born to be. It’s also about building a coalition, a community and a network that can actively transcend barriers. Places like The Center, Mama’s Kitchen, and TransFamily Support Services, are just a few of these special organizations doing the work that Stonewall paved the way for. During this Pride season I want to remind everyone when you’re watching the parade, check out the organizations who show up every day to do this work. Go to the festival and talk to every booth and organizer you see. Volunteers are needed every day and it’s not a one-time commitment.
As I already stated, there’s a beauty to being part of this community. The truth is we hold so much power within our identities that we should always lift one another up. Some of us don’t have the luxury to turn a blind eye to the political arenas we live in. Some of us don’t have the privileges, the rights, and the safety to be able to march in the streets to stand up for what we believe in. But we have our voices, agency, and the ability to be creative in a country and a world that at many times dares to tell us who we should be.
How can we all be better advocates? Show up to rallies when our transgender and non-binary communities ask for support. Donate your money to worthy causes; whether it’s to fund HIV research, supporting drag performers who don’t feel safe in their respective states for fear of repercussions, or even just visit local LGBTQ+ establishments to support their businesses. We’re more than a spectacle to watch when you want entertainment. We live outside of the bounds of rainbow washing and the bounds of showing up when it’s easy to. Brunches and bingos are great, but we also want you to show up when it’s difficult because the people who live within the margins don’t truly know who believes they’re worth fighting for if right in their own backyard, we can’t show up when they need it. Be in solidarity, be in community and just be there.
To our community, we must continue to build ourselves up, because we’ve proven time and time again that we can advocate for ourselves, before, during and after pride. For many of us, to live out loud every day is an act of resistance, but there are so many ways to live our lives even if at times many of us have had to hide. We can’t control how others respond to our existence, but we can continue to just be ourselves.
In the end, what does Pride mean to you? How will you show up for your community, next?–Korie Houston is a local social justice advocate. Reach him at [email protected].