“Pride started as a protest.” Those words echoed in my mind as I marched down Lamar Street, headed towards Houston’s city hall. Surrounded by nearly 60,000 protestors marching alongside George Floyd’s family, I was forced to recognize the significance of the moment. Houston’s community (the most diverse city in the nation) came out in droves to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. A coalition of young and old, straight and queer, people of all backgrounds, races, faiths, and abilities had come together to demand progress and fight for social justice. As I reflect on that day, I cannot help but think that this is the true spirit of Pride. This is where communities come together, lift each other up, and continue fighting for change. As I continued marching and chanting, I could not think of anything more appropriate during the month of Pride.
Traditionally, the month of June, and Pride itself, has served as a time for members of the LGBTQ+ to celebrate the hard work and progress we have made towards equal rights and social justice. However, over the last several years, Pride has increasingly looked like cleverly spun marketing campaigns, fancy floats in the middle of shiny parade, and some incredibly fabulous outfits featuring an excessive amount of glitter. (To be clear, you can never actually have too much glitter.) But the stark realities of this year made sure that this Pride would be very different, and I think that has been a very good thing.
This year has been filled with so many unprecedented challenges. As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, it also continues to amplify the inequities that are so clearly present in our society. Working in education, the last few months have proven just how important all aspects of learning are. Although we have done our best to shift our academic learning to an online platform, it has become increasingly difficult to replicate the social and emotional learning that also happens within a school community. While we are only just beginning to recognize how this pandemic is disproportionately impacting different communities, we have felt the first-hand effects that it has had on the mental health and emotional well-being of our children and youth. Even before the pandemic, we knew that LGBTQ+ children and youth present a significantly higher risk for depression and suicidal ideation. With measures like social distancing and distance learning in place, it is important now, more than ever, that we continue supporting our LGBTQ+ kids and other communities that have been hit hardest by this pandemic.
Since I first came out as a gay man in my mid-20s, Pride has always played an important role in my personal LGBTQ+ story, and this year is certainly no exception. This year has been a moment to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Pride. This has been an important opportunity to learn about the actual history of Stonewall and the larger LGBTQ+ social movement as a whole. We should never forget that it was the work of Black Trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and others that gave us Stonewall. The original Stonewall protests were not glitzy parades. They were an uprising! There were multiple days of protest, marching, and violence. And yet, those protests would prove to be the catalyst for creating a social movement that would continue fighting for LGBTQ+ rights even today. This year, in the midst of so many demands for change, we must step away from the Pride marked by glam and consumerism, and fully embrace a return to our roots, the protest. Let us use this as an opportunity to elevate Black and Brown voices and fight for a more inclusive Pride (with maybe just a little bit of glitter along the way).
I want to challenge all of us, allies and the LGBTQ+ community alike, to love, support, and include others this year. Despite all the challenges we have faced, I remain hopeful. As we continue to fight for a more inclusive and more equitable world, I encourage you to continue supporting organizations like The Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and CHILD USA that are committed to serving LGBTQ+ youth and children from all walks of life.
Today I am proud. But I am also humbled and grateful for those that have paved the way for people like me. As we celebrate Pride this year and beyond, let us remember all the progress we have made and continue to support our Black and Brown allies that made it possible.
Addison Feind is a lifelong educator who is a passionate member of the LGBTQ+ community and an advocate for several social justice causes. He currently serves as a campus Director of Student Support for YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas.