It’s pride month!
I’ve always been an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, but where I grew up, pride parades weren’t – and still aren’t really – a thing. While being an LGBTQ+ individual isn’t punishable where I come from, it isn’t celebrated either, which is why when I experienced my first pride parade, I was awestruck. It was fun, yes, but it was so special for me that people get to celebrate their identities that years ago, they might’ve had to hide, and perhaps even have to now. To learn more about the culture from an insider’s perspective, I got to talking with some of my friends from the community about what the Pride month, the Pride marches, and the growing LGBTQ+ community means to them.
To one of them, let’s call them Alex to protect their identity, the ability to go to a pride parade meant a lot. “I felt so excluded during my first pride parade. I wasn’t out yet and everyone was so unapologetically themselves. I wanted to join in, but even in that ‘safe’ community I felt like I had to hide myself. I can’t come out because where I come from, the LGBTQ+ community is heavily discriminated against. We aren’t hurt physically, unlike some other countries, but still, we won’t be given jobs, if we’re in school it is put on our transcripts if the schools find out, and we’re labeled like some inhumane property. Not straight. Not cis. Crazy. Unstable. Satanic. I live two lives. One, every year during Pride in different countries in the world. Another, with my family, my friends back home, and in my workplace. One day, I will be as honest in my daily life about who I am as I can be in this community during Pride. This entire month is beautiful, and other may think its arbitrary, but its like Mother’s Day – it’s for appreciation, not some sort of ‘everyone must be gay’ propaganda. It lets some of us be us, in all our right.”
The right to your own identity can be a rare commodity yet. Rotterdam, and the Netherland’s environment, can be far more inclusive than others.
Some of the other people I met with shared their concerns about some of the issues they felt existed within the community. “It’s LGBTQ+, and some of us, we’re just the plus. So even within the community we’re less visible. I identity as asexual, and a lot of times they don’t accept my identity even within the community, because to them, asexuality means I cannot be sexy. Sometimes they comment on how the way I dress is against my identity. Some people don’t even know that being asexual doesn’t mean you’re aromantic! I can still fall in love. Perhaps it’s because we’re a small number within the community, and we don’t want to be a letter, but what we want is just to be recognized sometimes as valid. Yes, in this world of increased sexualization and fetishization, people who do not feel this way exist.”
I was also made aware of some very interesting perspectives on Pride. “It’s not that I hate pride. I think within the fun and the partying, people should stand in solidarity with those unable to express themselves like we have been allowed to. I love this community, I do, but what about those being executed, some even legally! I love that we are allowed to express ourselves, but some people spend so much money on arbitrary things for Pride, like rainbow colored fashion. Try as I might not to judge them, that money could go to those in need, those trying to escape their prosecution, those trying to survive. A quick Google search will introduce you to many charities around the world that try to help the LGBTQ+ community. Besides, this month changes nothing if we don’t try to strive for change. If every year, we make these efforts, maybe one day we’ll live in a world where your sexuality and gender identity doesn’t define your entire being.”
I did, in my past, feel that I didn’t belong at a Pride celebration because I am just an ally of the community, not a direct member. Some people agreed with my sentiments. “I don’t understand why you’d want to come anyway. It’s not your culture, or a culture you’d really understand. It’s nice you want to support us, but you get your day 365 days of the year. We don’t. So wanting it to be exclusive, well, it’s for us. You don’t celebrate the holidays of people that aren’t your religion, so why force yourself into someone’s celebration of their identity?”
But not everyone shared those sentiments, at least in my experience, most of them disagreed! “Pride is for everyone. Yeah, maybe you’re straight, maybe you’re cis, maybe you’re just here to put it on your Instagram story to reinforce that you’re an ally. But you’re expressing yourself. The fact that you came here means something – that fact that you came here and weren’t like ‘Where’s the Straight Parade’ also means something. And of course, some people may feel like you don’t belong – but who cares? As long as you’re having fun, as long as you’re just being you and not hurting people, who is anyone to tell you not to exist there? That’s what we’re fighting for, in the end. Everyone’s ability to just be themselves.”
And there’s a lot of little things you can do to support the LGBTQ+ community, all throughout the year, no matter who you are!
Some things can be simple, such as representation – look at this beautiful makeup look by IBCoM’s own, Basia Fourie. Follow her talent on Instagram: @makeartup
Support charities and donations, sometimes just through a petition! One site recommended to me was http://lgbtasylumsupport.nl/en/
To end this otherwise emotional post, I felt the need to lighten the spirits by reminding everyone to be a little more loving, a little more accepting, and a little more understanding, no matter who you are.