As Pride month closes, retired LUK employee José Rivera reflects on the history and what Pride means to him.
In June of 2000, Bill Clinton declared June, “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” The month was chosen to remember a riot in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan that, to many of us, is the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States.
The movement, now celebrated around the word, has three main premises: that people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity, that sexual diversity is a gift, and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered. It is a celebration of self-affirmation, dignity, equality, visibility, community, and the beauty and power of diversity – life aspects that are easily taken for granted by many for whom these have been gifted without questions, challenges or struggles. Yet, 48 years after the Stonewall riots, the very being of many LGBTQ individuals is still being questioned and challenged; many still struggle to be.
For 35+ years, I had the privilege and joy of working at LUK – where I found countless allies which made my journey immeasurably easier than what many of my brothers and sisters experience. If I may, I would like to share with you some of these gifts so that, as Gay Pride Month comes to an end, those of you who are so moved can begin (or continue) a lifetime of making this world a better place to be for our LGBT brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, spouses, friends, coworkers, friends, neighbors… (you get the picture: we are always beside you).
- Having a meaningful dialogue with my supervisor (thanks Dave) about what it meant to be out to my clients.
- Wearing and seeing pride items, like a rainbow flag, a pin (the wife of our then-Mayor wore one that said “STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW”), a “Safe Zone” sticker, etc. They all go a long way in signaling the presence of allies and telling us that we are not invisible, that we are not alone, that we are safe, that we are valued. (Please remember that wherever we are and whomever we are with, there are probably LGBT individuals whose life could be greatly enhanced by an ally.)
- Hearing someone speaking up to challenge inappropriate jokes or comments, even if they “knew” the offending party meant no harm.
- When coming out to my peers, they did not respond with “I always knew” or “I thought so” (unwittingly, these phrases tend to devalue the effort and courage it takes to come out). Instead, allies responded with appreciation that I considered them a safe and welcoming individual to come out to. (For some, especially youth, it might be helpful to ask whom else they are or want to be out to, as an ally can be extremely helpful in making this a safe and positive experience.)
- Having people wanting to hear more about me and my life. The only “expert” on my life is me and having folks be humble enough to recognize this is a precious gift.
This year’s theme is “Viva la Vida” (a celebration of life), not “Viva el Mes” (a month’s celebration). So (again, if you are so moved), please help us celebrate who we are, not just in June 2017 but always.