In the summer of 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a haven for the LGBTQ community in New York City. At the time, bars and restaurants could get shut down for having gay employees or serving gay patrons. Just 50 years ago, it was illegal to dress like a member of the opposite sex in New York. Police raids were common in spaces like the Stonewall Inn, which, for many LGBTQ people, were the only places they felt safe. But on one particular June night in ‘69, the queer community decided to fight back, starting an uprising.
Pride has been celebrated every year in June since 1970. We’ve come a long way in 50 years, and for some heterosexual people, it might be difficult to understand why Pride events are still necessary. After all, gay Hoosiers have been able to marry each other for five years now, so why are they still celebrating, anyway? How come there’s never been a Straight Pride Month or Straight Pride Parade?
The motives behind Pride celebrations remain political. Despite laws protecting LGBTQ members of society, discrimination is still rampant. In fact, I was surprised to learn that violence against transgender people, especially trans women of color, is actually on the rise. Coming out can be a death sentence.
So it’s no wonder that in a rural town like ours, it can be terrifying to come out. It means you could be rejected by your family and friends, shunned by coworkers, or harassed in the streets. Every LGBTQ person has had to decide whether it’s worth the risk to come out; a decision that no straight person has had to face. If you’ve never been to a Pride event, it’s easy to assume it’s a spectacle of debauchery — especially if that’s all you’ve been shown in pictures or videos circulating of such events.
However, if you look around, you’ll see strangers embracing, getting free “mom hugs” because their own mother rejected them for being gay. You could see a young transgender person who, for the first time, is in a space where they’re not only accepted, but celebrated for who they are.
You’ll see families with young children eating snow cones and dancing to music by local performers. You’ll see members of your community, both gay and straight, forming an alliance. You’ll see straight allies who are just there to support their LGBTQ friends. That might even be you.
Tonight, the second annual Rainbow Over the Bridge once again gives our town the opportunity come together to tell local members of the queer community: you are welcome here in Vincennes. You have our support. Everyone here accepts you and love you as you are. You’ve faced adversity, and you’re still here. And that’s worth celebrating.
Katie Cawood's column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at email@example.com.