It ain’t easy being LGBTQ. Nah. Let’s reframe that. It’s totally easy and rad to be LGBTQ – because it’s completely ordinary and just the way we’re born. What’s not easy is dealing with a heteronormative world who, at times, choose to think of LGBTQ lives as “wrong,” “bad,” “not normal,” or “a lifestyle choice.”
It’s been a turbulent year. David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “The LGBTQ community, particularly transgender women of color, continue to face an epidemic of violence.” In 2016, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found a 17 percent increase from the year before in hate killings of LGBTQ people.
These are not encouraging stats. They flat out show that Pride festivals matter, that safe celebrations in these days of night club shootings are important, that there are contrarians who need to open their hearts to the fact that LGBTQ folks are – wait for the shocker – just people who want to live and love fully.
To celebrate this year’s festival, DGO spoke to locals about what Pride means to them.
“We’ve come so far and we have no intention of turning back”Pride means getting to be yourself and not having to worry or second guess who you are or where you live. To go and have a good time and not really worry about the things that people normally worry about.
I think the general population doesn’t really understand how something as simple as holding hands can be over-thought or avoided for same-sex couples.
I think it’s important that we still celebrate Pride in times like these to show, “Hey, we’re not going anywhere.” People who are LGBTQ have been around since the dawn of time and we are going to celebrate that diversity here in our community.
With Pride, it’s really important that we remember the history of it. Pride started through riots. A big part of Pride that people don’t realize is remembering the history that got us through today, remembering the people who rebelled, remembering the people who died, those who fought for the freedoms we have today. We still have quite a ways to go, but we’ve come so far and we have no intention of turning back.
“It almost seems like businesses are using queer identities as a way to make money”To me, Pride is about celebrating and accepting our differences. It’s about remembering the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and everyone who came before us who contributed to the gay rights movement. It was a long, hard-fought battle for LGBT acceptance and even today our community struggles to be afforded basic human rights. The fight is not over and that is why we continue to march and hold Pride events. I get really irritated when people pull the, “Why isn’t there a straight Pride” card because every day is straight Pride Day. Cishet people can hold their significant other’s hand in public without facing ridicule, or worse, being beaten or killed.
I’ve definitely noticed Pride becoming more corporate over recent years. Pride parades are littered with corporate floats and it almost seems like businesses are using queer identities as a way to make money. I think Pride has lost its meaning over time and has become this huge, all-inclusive celebration, but people are forgetting exactly what they’re celebrating. It is about so much more than glitter and getting drunk.
“No one should have to live in fear”My uncle finally told me he was gay when he was 75. I was the first family member he told. No one should have to live in fear. Pride helps me celebrate his life.
“I dream of everyone in our entire community finding pride in who they are” What Pride week means to me is the opportunity to look inside and tell myself I’m OK with who I am. To look around me – and for five days in a row – see people like me and know I am not alone. And [to] see people who are not queer like me and are there in support.
Some of the people I value most this Pride are the majority status people who can look at me and say “I don’t claim to understand you, and I’ll admit sometimes I’m downright uncomfortable around you, and despite that, as one human being to another, I support you in knowing and expressing who you are.” I’ve found everyone I’ve explored this with has some way they feel different. I dream of everyone in our entire community finding pride in who they are.
When I look at the Pride parade and picnic this year, I hope to see teachers, school administrators, health care professionals, and service providers in full force spanning the entire political and spiritual faith spectrums. When children and teens see people of the gender identity and sexual orientation majority out in support of minorities, it helps give them the courage they need to live another day and be who they are.
Jude Harrison, MD
“This year it feels important to go out there as activists for civil rights, which is what this is”Pride isn’t necessarily a parade and something going on in a park. It’s an opportunity for people who have perhaps historically not felt safe doing things like walking down a street or hanging out in a park with their partners or in large numbers, in a visible way, where they aren’t trying to pass as a straight person.
I’ve heard people talking, people even in my own family, who don’t understand Pride. They say, “Why do you have to dress like that or be so loud and do it in front of everybody?” And it’s because that’s the only time you can ... It’s getting better, but this is why it’s getting better, because people are being active.
It’s about being visible and claiming public space and safety – being visible in a literal sense and also politically, where you can look out and see that this is a community of citizens and voters and parents and all those roles.
Some years feel more celebratory and some years feel more like activism. This year it feels important to go out there as activists for civil rights, which is what this is. It’s a political statement to show up or to wear a T-shirt or do any of those things. I think it’s important for people who may not feel like they have a way to voice their opinions to be able to do something as simple as attending a meeting or an event.
“We have so much to be proud of, so let’s do it” Honestly, this year has been the year that I’ve been the most involved because it feels like it means something a little more. Some people are trying to take some things away. Not that there’s more at stake than there ever was, but it just means we have to get out and show that we are here and we are not beaten down. We have so much to be proud of, so let’s do it.
“This year, in this political climate, I think there’s a very strong need to remind people that we’re still here” To me, Pride is an opportunity for visibility of the LGBT community. It’s an opportunity for the [La Plata] community as a whole to see who we are, and also for members of the LGBT community to meet.
What I like more than any of the other activities at the festival is the cocktail reception at the Rochester. I think it’s a mainstream, social event that anybody can participate in and get to know and interact with people in the community. Some of the other events are more of a display or entertainment.
There are quite a few of us out here who are not the party-type, that aren’t overtly sexual – the stereotypes or misconceptions that people have in their head about the LGBT community. Pride is a space where everyone gets to express themselves.
This year, in this political climate, I think there’s a very strong need to remind people that we’re still here. People should know that there is a much larger LGBT community than they will even see at the Pride Festival. It’s not necessarily a cohesive community and people don’t necessarily show up for every event. I think that’s disappointing. I think not showing up leads people to believe that it’s a small community and it’s not.
“I don’t need someone’s approval to be me” Pride, for me, is a remembrance of the people that came before me who made it easier for me to come out. I know that, in turn, my being who I am, made it a lot easier for the 20-somethings and teenagers who are coming out now.
I’m personally not happy with the current administration, but [Pride] even felt different last year because Orlando had just happened. I think we’ll have more people coming out being [more] visible and vocal than normal because, as a few of my friends have said, we’re not going to take this laying down.
There are a lot of people who still don’t understand why we need to celebrate. Sometimes it’s really hard to explain to them why this is important for us to do. For me, it’s a remembrance of people who came before me. The first initial Pride was a riot.
I don’t need someone’s approval to be me. I’ve been done hiding for a long time ... I would tell people to live their life, as you want, and live it out loud. Love is love and that’s all that matters.
“I think the biggest misconception is that you need to be gay to go party” [Pride is] an opportunity to honor the struggle that a lot of folks go through on a daily basis, especially the trans community who put their lives on the line, every day, just walking down the street sometimes. For me, it’s a recognition that this can be really hard and dangerous. Pride is a day when a lot of people don’t have to hide as much and they can come out and be supported and feel safe in the community.
I think the biggest misconception is that you need to be gay to go party. [Laughs] I hear a lot of people say, “Oh, we can’t march because we’re not gay or don’t identify as ‘other’ in some way.” That’s not the case. I would love to see the streets just flooded with people.
I’ll march with the [Four Corners Rainbow] Youth Center. We’ll have a booth in Buckley Park after the parade. I just hope people come out and support everybody. I think Durango’s a great community. We have a long way to go in the way that we support our folks here, but we are moving in the right direction.
Rowan Blaisdell, co-director of the Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center For details on Pride events, visit http://4calliancefordiversity.org/events.These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer