As I walked down Locust St. to the pride block party, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I had made it to another pride festival. Just the night before, multiple people had lost their lives or been wounded at South Street, another popular site for celebration. Every year, trans folx, especially melanated ones like myself, lose their lives. I considered it a personal triumph to make it to 21, but each year afterwards now feels like another achievement. That is why for me and many others, when we can afford to wear something outlandish, when we give in and sell an arm and a leg to buy a corporate cash grab rainbow dyed product, we celebrate. We were privileged to be able to safely gather. We haven’t given in to the bigots. We can reaffirm to ourselves that we are not alone, we are not a ‘freak accident’, and we deserve to have equal rights to happiness like anyone else that is not causing harm.
Around this time two years ago, I was seeking Pride in a country where it is a little less loud and corporate sponsored— South Korea. In many large American cities, ‘Pride’ is practically a given. Witnessing Pride in South Korea, and living there as a queer individual gave some added perspective, even being in the capital city. It was the same opposition: “We don’t want our kids seeing it,” “Don’t normalize this,” “Stop shoving it in our face,” “You’re going to X religious bad place,” – the usual epithets.
Despite lower governmental and societal recognition in South Korea, despite the higher safety risks, queer Korean organizers still held a festival and showed up. The resiliency, the joy, and the pride felt the same even if expressed in different ways. Around this time last year, I got to attend a smaller, regional pride festival in Doylestown. It was both a younger and older demographic at the various events, but it was just as fun. Pride is a global thing. It is a human thing. No matter whether I’m sneaking my first peeks while questioning in Paris at 16, or marching proudly at 21, it has always remained consistent in my mind and in my heart.
Now, there is indeed a long way to go. The climate in this country, the nonsequitur of “Well if you don’t like it, then leave” is always frustrating. Where in the world do I have full rights as a human being? Where am I allowed to live? Where am I allowed to live authentically as I am? Where can I afford to live — this last question people often forget about. The world is not so easy that you can pick up and go somewhere else if you disagree with a neighbor. Community means we must communicate; that is something else that, for me, started at Pride. I get hair recommendations, clothing referrals, new friendships, and new inspirations from Pride every year. Everyone who attends Pride is actively open and kind to the world on that day. It is a spirit I try to hold in my heart all year.
We continue as we must, to do the strikes, the campaigns, and the competitions. Education and supportive action continues to save lives and combats prejudice. Pride started as a protest and continues to be so, but the difference is through celebration. And through unity, something that is harder and harder to find these days. With the rough years of quarantine and mixed isolation, it was much appreciated.
READ: Protecting Trans Youth
That is why Pride to me is multifaceted: we celebrate existing through another year, we rally together to demand acceptance and change, and we unify as fellow humans who deserve to be loved no matter your personal labels or nationality.
It is truly an experience and a feeling like no other. A saving grace.