|Photo by Z'ma Wyatt|
For the weeks leading up to National Gay Pride Day – the last Sunday of June (and yes, it’s true – President Bill Clinton being the first president to declare it as such) – is celebrated with parades, picnics, parties, memorials for those lives lost from hate crimes and more.
If you’ve ever been to a Pride festival, especially in San Francisco, you know it is a giant party for EVERYONE (and does draw just that), all celebrating that which makes us different and unique – yet still human beings.
But the irony of this and just about every other day/month of recognition is that there was a lot of pain and sadness that got us to the period of honor.
For more than 200 years, African Americans were held as slaves throughout the South and treated as fifth-class citizens across much of the rest of the country until President Abraham Lincoln freed them via the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. For thousands more, that freedom didn’t come for another 2.5 years when blacks in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they were free.
In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans were force to live in internment camps (i.e. prisons) across the Western U.S. Since that time, many Asian cultures are looked down upon, people grouping them as one.
Today, tens of thousands of Mexican immigrants flock to this country each year to make a better life for them and their families. Unfortunately, for wanting something so many of us take for granted, this group of people is treated too often like aliens – the unkind and unfair name some still call them.
And since hatred and ignorance are equal opportunity traits, the LGBTQI communities have been called everything from evil to misguided to being blamed for the AIDS epidemic.
Need I go on?
But it’s okay … in 2011 we can celebrate Black History, Asian-Pacific American Heritage, Hispanic Heritage and Native American Heritage months and even Pride Month, which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, that sparked the modern LGBT liberation movement in the United States. And on June 19 we recognize Juneteenth – the date of the announcement of freedom for African Americans in the U.S., primarily those in the Western half of the country.
So we’re good, right?
It’s truly sad that in order to get a national holiday or monthly observance a person or groups of people – usually representing some “minority” in the general U.S. population – must go through some hardship or injustice before the “majority” will acknowledge they are worthy to be “equal.”
But that equality is too often in theory only.
There was a time when the only thing “gay” meant was to be happy, “having or showing a merry, lively mood.” Like other hateful words linked to groups of people, it’s time for us to take back the negativity so many still associate with the word.
Be “gay” who you are and who you represent.
Be “gay” to represent a group of people that you belong to.
And we all need to take the time to use these daily, weekly and monthly observances to tear down our walls, eliminate our ignorance and embrace the core of what does make us all the same.
BE “GAY!” BE PROUD!
Originally published at myshadesmagazine.net.