June is Gay Pride month, which is inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their allies. Gay pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward LGBT people to promote their self-affirmation, equal rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate their diversity. Pride is contrary to shame, stigma, and oppression. This coming weekend is the gay pride festival and parade in Chicago where it is expected that nearly three quarters of a million Chicagoans will come together to celebrate the community (Northwestern University IMPACT Program will have a booth, so come by and say hi to the staff). In honor of Pride month I am sharing the top five reasons I am proud of the gay community.
Reason #1: Community
In our research with LGBT youth, and work done by others, we consistently hear about a sense of community—a sense of belonging to a network of people who have shared experiences. That sense of belonging is powerful because it means that you are not alone and that others have overcome some of the struggles. Connecting to community can help to overcome feelings of rejection and isolation. Community manifests itself formally in gay neighborhoods (such as Boystown in Chicago), in LGBT community centers (such as the Center on Halsted), in organizations fighting for LGBT equality (such as Equality Illinois), in organizations working to assure the wellbeing of LGBT students (such as the Alliance for Illinois Safe Schools and its network of GSAs), in LGBT affirming religious organizations, and in organizations working to remedy disparities in LGBT Health (such as Howard Brown Health Center and Vida Sida). Community also is manifested informally in friendships and social relationships. Creating community can be hard work. It can involve raising money to build and maintain a community center, putting your own neck out to make sure that LGBT youth aren’t being bullied, or even going up to someone at an event who doesn’t know anyone and making sure they feel welcome. Our community does this hard work every day, and for this we have much to be proud.
In 2010 we set up a booth at the Chicago Pride Festival and asked people to write on a card why they "heart" or love their sexuality. The response was overwhelming, with over 200 cards completed. The cards were released on the IMPACT website, allowing visitors to view the cards and read the inspiring and sometimes funny messages. The main goal of these cards is to share examples of why people are proud to be LGBT. There were also cards completed by heterosexuals sharing why they are proud to be included or connected to the gay community. You can view some of the cards below, or go to the campaign page to view more.
Join the conversation about why you are proud of the gay community. Click the share buttons below and add your own reasons for pride to the conversation.
Dr. Mustanski is the Director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at Northwestern University. You can follow the Sexual Continuum blog by becoming a fan on Facebook. I periodically live tweet from research conferences on sexuality and you can follow me @sexualcontinuum.