Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pride 2010 - A Renewed Sense of Purpose

Originally Posted on June  24, 2010

Pride? I thought that was last weekend…

Seriously, this weekend is the traditional LGBT Pride commemoration, now going on 41 years after the Stonewall Riots. Among the Pride celebrations this weekend will be the one right here in Minneapolis with the traditional weekend festival at Loring Park and the parade down Hennepin Avenue downtown.

The reason for my quip about “last weekend” (that’s if you haven’t checked out these photos) was that I was down in Iowa City attending their Pride. Why Iowa City? I figured if I was heading down to Des Moines anyway – why not? And, I’m glad I did!

As my friend JJ and his spouse Shawn would attest – I absolutely enjoyed myself. It was a small Pride – the parade took maybe 20 minutes from the first entry to the last. The festival was at the Ped Mall downtown and was a very lively place to be. I have to admit that I surprised JJ and Shawn by showing up at the Ped Mall, but we enjoyed a warm day meeting some of the good people of Johnson County (and beyond) in a non-corporate, honest and friendly atmosphere.

It was also the first time I’ve witnessed an environment where same-gender marriage is a fact of law in my own country. Though I lean towards according the same rights of marriage to same-gender couples, it certainly secured my thoughts and feelings about when I saw JJ’s and Shawn’s rings last Saturday. Being that they were one of the first same-gender couples to legally marry in Johnson County, Iowa, JJ and Shawn convinced me that this fact should never be taken for granted – and, perhaps, there is a reason to celebrate Pride wherever we gather as a people.

This goes beyond just “celebrating.” There is something worth talking about. There is something worth fighting for – finishing the job to ensure that LGBT people are accorded the full rights of U.S. Citizens. President Barack Obama said in his reception for the LGBT Community at the White House that he has asked Congress to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The President also issued a directive to the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a rule at all hospitals across the country receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds to give visitation rights to the partners of same-gender couples.

These are further steps towards equality that I am grateful to see in my lifetime. Yet, there’s still more to be done. There’s still hate to erase. There’s still fear of reprisal of citizens who refuse to see people like myself rise in this country. The Federal Government can codify every law to ensure our rights, but we must continue to be protected from the hate of its own citizens. We must be assured that we can roam freely in this country and not seen as a threat to community cohesiveness. It seems we sometimes forget these small details wherever we live.

On the other hand, if we “celebrate” pride, then we’re asking entities outside of our own to dictate the terms of how we celebrate. It takes the fight out of what we need to accomplish. We buy their beer or down their liquor because they support us or want to see us drink ourselves to death. We buy their products so we can feed off their pabulum and spend our money further into debt. We can let our celebrations become a place where cliques and other feigned behaviors disallow us to become a single, vibrant community worth gathering, celebrating and fighting for the cause of equality.

Or, we can let the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board be reminded of their mistake by allowing an anti-Gay minister to possibly disrupt our celebration in the face of a Supreme Court ruling that disallows such penetrations of distinct cultural events.

Then again, I am only showing you the dark side of Pride.

Going to Iowa City renewed my pride in being gay this year. Because of my trip last weekend, I am emboldened to follow a path towards equality. This includes refusing to give power to those seeking to hold us back from earning "the prize."

However, there are many things we, as a community, must do! I do not feel we’re ready to receive equality as we continued to be fractured by special interests and cultures of desire. Yes, let us own our attractions and community attachments, but we cannot receive the goods of the law unless we ask for them with a united voice. No one should be in the front of the crowd screaming at Congress or the state house. No pecking order should be set. Regardless of where we come from, which gender we love and how we express our love – we must ALL ask for the same rights and freedoms as presumed by being an American citizen.

In closing, I remind all of us of the old spiritual that goes: “Keep your eyes on the prize, O Lord!”

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