Most people have seen the acronym LGBTQ, but what does LGBTQ mean? LGBTQ is an evolving string of letters meant to inclusively represent all members of the gay and transgender community. While the acronym has grown longer over the decades of its use, LGBTQ and LGBTQ+ have become the gold standard. Currently, the acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. While the other terms are self-explanatory, Queer is a bit different. Queer is an umbrella term meant to encompass any other minority sexual orientations or gender identities. The plus that sometimes adorns these letters expands upon that meaning by adding in anyone who isn’t covered by the previous categories but considers themselves part of the LGBTQ community (allies and intersex people, for example).
What is Pride Month?
When the LGBTQ band together to demonstrate solidarity and shine a light on discrimination suffered by LGBTQ people, those gatherings or activities are called pride events. Pride began in shows of solidarity by waving specially made rainbow flags, went on to involve elaborate and colorful parades of the LGBTQ, and has recently evolved to mark June as gay pride month. Gay rights have improved as gays gained more visibility in America. The more they marched, the more people realized that people in sexual and gender minorities were uncommon, but by no means rare. Your grocer, mailman, or favorite actor could be queer—and most people have always been happy to admit that their friends and family deserve the same rights and safety as they possess themselves.
We Should Support LGBTQ Pride
In the not-so-distant past, Lord Alfred Douglas called homosexuality the “love that dare not speak its name.” More recent decades saw men using handkerchief codes and furtive glances to announce their affinities. Such precautions were necessary because an open admission of homosexuality could land a man or woman in jail or, worse, a mental asylum. Discovery often carried the heavy consequences of stigma-driven social ostracism, unemployment, difficulty securing housing, and eventual homelessness or death.
Indeed, transgender people continue to experience the bulk of this discrimination. According to TransEquality, one in five transgender people have been discriminated against while seeking housing, and fully one in ten transsexuals has been evicted because of their gender identity. Hate crimes remain distressingly common, demonstrating the need for further acceptance of the LGBTQ.
LGBTQ pride forces the public to notice the discrimination, violence, hate crimes, exclusion, and persecution people in sexual and gender minorities face without forcing LGBTQ individuals to portray themselves as victims. Pride is about the joy that is found in genuine expression and acceptance of oneself—a joy that straight and cisgender people often take for granted.
This is exemplified in the waving of the LGBTQ flag. With its multiple bands of colors evoking the many varieties of sexual and gender minorities that exist, the rainbow flag serves as a focal point designed to visually represent the unity of gays, lesbians, and other members of the LGBTQ community. Pride allows gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and even pansexuals, asexuals, and demisexuals to feel more at home by creating an open, welcoming and accepting social circle. This is important, especially for queer youth, as they are too often abandoned by their parents— fully 40% of homeless minors identify as LGBTQ. This is an astounding figure when we remember that only 7% of the population identifies as LGBTQ. Bringing attention to problems is the only way to find their solutions and supporting LGBTQ pride is the simplest and most positive way to bring those problems to light.
We Shouldn’t Support LGBTQ Pride
The battle for LGBTQ rights has marched on for decades, and much of the risk and stigma involved in being gay, lesbian, bisexual or gender-nonconforming has faded away. As the danger of being out as an LGBTQ individual has diminished, the visibility of the LGBTQ community has skyrocketed. Now it’s common to see rainbow patches, jewelry, and even LGBTQ flags displayed openly. June has even been named pride month by the community, a celebration that causes everyone from straight LGBTQ allies to major corporations to pull out their rainbow flags in an attempt to sell products or show support for sexual minorities. While the comparative safety of supporting or being sexually or gender divergent makes openness less surprising, many feel that the marching, yelling, and flying of rainbow-colored flags has gone too far. Especially in a world that largely accepts homosexual and transgender behaviors, is LGBTQ pride really necessary? Should we support or join pride celebrations? Are straight and cisgender people even welcome at gay parades and LGBTQ gatherings, or are they too different to join a happy and sometimes clannish minority group?
Gay parades certainly seem exclusive. Amidst the rainbow flags and gay couples proudly holding hands are men and women divested of their clothing, wielding sex toys, and mimicking sexual bondage on the streets. A parent desiring to expose their young children to sexual and gender minorities in a healthy, happy way would do well to avoid pride parades, especially if modesty is a familial or cultural value. For similar reasons, it’s likely that many people of all ages are put off by the rampant sexuality put shamelessly on display.
Drawing attention to differences in sexual orientation is a worthy enough goal, but sexual orientation being a differentiator between human beings does not necessitate putting every inch of one’s body and detail of one’s sexual habits on lurid display. A milder, more measured pride demonstration might do more to help people understand that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people are not too different from anyone else. Less ‘pride’ and more effort devoted to showing straight people that the LGBTQ community is full of people just like them would do more to shatter stereotypes and promote real, enduring acceptance. Current pride displays often go against these goals, emphasizing the differences between LGBTQ people and the straight world and creating division between the two groups.
Gay Pride Has Expanded Human Rights, but Current Shows of Pride May Go Too Far
Gay pride and solidarity amongst members of sexual and gender minorities did a lot to ensure basic human rights were retained regardless of LGBTQ status. The media attention also did a great deal to normalize being gay or bisexual. Transgender normalization and rights lag behind, but aggressively seeking publicity may no longer be the best method of gaining support. Nowadays, LGBTQ flags and gay relationships can feel ubiquitous, which can reinforce the division between gays and straights. Ultimately, the goal of pride is to help LGBTQ youth and adults enter a world that accepts and respects them for who they are. At this point, many would be more willing to grant that respect if they didn’t have to be shocked by salacious visuals and think about other people’s sex lives so often. What do you think, has LGBTQ pride gone too far, or is every display of pride necessary for the sake of equality?