June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and the LGBTQ+ community has a lot to celebrate. Every June, we watch our social media turn into a sea of rainbows. Corporations and brands work extremely hard to capitalize on the enterprise that is LGBTQ Pride. LGBTQ Rights organizations launch campaign. Communities large and small issue proclamations. There are Pride Parades and Festivals occurring every single day in June. I think that is great because of representation matters. However, I believe that we should always maintain perspective.
This is not going to be a blog post critiquing the meaning of pride because I believe Pride means a lot of things to a lot of people. Pride is a celebration. Pride is a provocation. Pride is a recognition. Pride is a representation. Pride is an acknowledgment. Pride is an act of bravery. Pride, for me, represents a reflection on where the LGBTQ community has been and where the LGBTQ community is going. Pride is a prospectus.
I am extremely blessed to have grown up in this era. Millennials and Generation Z have grown up in an era of monumental change for the LGBTQ+ community, and for that, I am most profoundly grateful. I grew into adulthood reaping the benefits of LGBTQ pioneers who put their lives and bodies on the line in search of equal treatment, dignity, and respect.
I grew up in the era of Gay-Straight Alliance organizations, the Trevor Project, YouTube “Coming Out,” videos, groundbreaking TV shows like Glee, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Queer Eye. I came of age in a time where being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer identifying was a fleeting part of one’s overall story. I was fortunate enough to see the end of LGBTQ discrimination in the military with the end of DADT. I witnessed the Supreme Court affirm the right to marry. I watched as communities’ large and small extend protections to increasingly marginalized people. I am a product of that progress.
I’ve seen LGBTQ people lead major corporations, occupy high political offices, lead movements, and become regular characters on mainstream TV shows and movies. I celebrated Pride in cities and towns across the country. I listened to coming out stories. I have laughed with friends and strangers remembering our journeys of acceptance. I had my very own gay wedding where my love was affirmed by my family, friends, and community. I have issued public statements commemorating pride event and equality events. I’ve been the confidant to many who have yet to come out on the other side. I have cherished many moments in my black gay chef veteran bow tie wearing map collecting politico security professional experience. I know there is work that still needs to be done. I know that Pride is still necessary.
In Florida, LGBTQ people are still being attacked and abused because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Transwomen of Color are being murdered in our state at alarming rates. I know that we can use the Pride celebration so spotlight homophobic and transphobic legislation. I recognize that having perspective connects us with our ancestors’ struggles. Pride stems from rebellion against police violence and intimidation. It’s a battle for social and civil rights. Pride is an organizing tool that connects our beautifully complex community. So, as we engage in all of the Pride activities throughout June, keep perspective. Maintain the pride prospectus.
This Pride, I will be celebrating the brave pioneers that gave their lives, put their bodies on the line, and demanded action. I will be celebrating the beauty, innovation, creativity, and spirit of our culturally diverse, generation-spanning, and increasingly dynamic community. I call on young LGBTQ people and our allies to take a moment to reflect on how far we have come and to appreciate the people who sacrificed everything for us. I want older people to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the work you have put in the name of progress. Finally, I want everyone to recognize that we are not free until everyone in our community is free and that we cannot have equality without equity. Happy Pride!
DISCLAIMER: Unless otherwise stated, the PCYD Blog does not officially express the views of the Pinellas County Young Democrats.
Johnny V. Boykins is President of the Pinellas County Young Democrats, a husband, bow tie aficionado, amateur chef, and U.S. Coast Guard veteran. Johnny is also currently serving as Vice Chairman of the Pinellas Democratic Party.