By Monika MHz, PQ Monthly
Nights were always the worst. I remember playing the piano with tears in my eyes, and lying in bed watching the trees sway and flicker the moonlight as it shone on my restless body. I’d stare at the sky and wish I’d paid more attention in astronomy. As a child and teenager each night was painful as I sat alone.
Loneliness, alienation, shame, and distress are the unspoken demons that plague queers in a quaint world — and more so for those whose queerness resides at the intersection of other marginalized existences. Queers with disabilities, queers of color, queers with HIV, queers living on the streets, queers with trans bodies, and those who live intersecting these spaces, between the lines or beyond these margins, often find that forging their path and finding community can be the most difficult of tasks in a society that, at best, so easily ignores us.
Whenever the idea of “Pride” comes to mind I become momentarily sentimental and hopeful. One of the ideals, at least in some of my favorite idealistic portrayals of Pride, is one of community and coming together out of love and solidarity.
I imagine taking that teenage girl I was by the hand, and helping her see that she wasn’t alone. I imagine seeing her laugh and smile with her new friends, who welcome her with open arms, and owning every intersection of who she is without shame. I imagine her hearing moving speech after moving speech, inspiring her to action. I imagine her falling asleep for the first time feeling like she has a real family and community.
But I know it’s more likely that she would feel like more of an outcast, more alone, and more ashamed than she did before. And the adult I am today feels the same way. The truth is, I’ve never really been to Pride.
I was nearly 22 years old before I knew that Pride was anything but one of the best-paying club weekends of the year. I had been a DJ in gay clubs since I was 16, and no one had taken the time to explain to me what Pride was, what it commemorated, and what it hoped to be.
But by the time I’d discovered what Pride was, beyond the nightclub, it seems as if all that history had been erased — or pushed aside.
Sylvia Rivera fought her way to the microphone during the Christopher Street Liberation Day march in 1973, shouting: “Y’all better quiet down.” When Sylvia took the stage that day, her voice cracking with passion, she reminded the crowd of all the people who weren’t there, who wouldn’t have the chance to speak that day. She spoke of the street kids, the homeless, the incarcerated, the beaten, and the murdered.
“Do you do anything for them? No! You tell me, ‘Go and hide my tail between my legs.’”
She demanded that those who wanted to do real work, who wanted to make great change, must join to “help everyone, and not just men and women that belong to a white middle class.”
Pride is an important moment for some, no doubt. It is a weekend of no shame, of pride in who they are. Pride has been a matter of fact in some queer lives for so long it can be easy for forget those at the margins — those queers who may not have found their community, those who don’t have trans friends, or gay friends, or someone who is like them. For many, especially our youngest and/or most marginalized, simply telling them they are welcome, that we are here for them, and that they should be proud just doesn’t cut it.
Each of us should make the effort to make someone we don’t know feel welcome, proud, and a full participating member of our community. Don’t just ask someone what they are doing for Pride. Ask them to join you, and remind them that all of Pride will be richer for their contribution and participation — that all of our community will be richer for it. Let’s reach out to those who we are missing, and who desperately miss us.
I envision a future for Pride where our youth, just for a moment, will see that they aren’t alone. I envision them meeting new friends who welcome them with open arms, and owning every intersection of who they are without shame. I envision all of us hearing moving speech after moving speech, inspiring us to action. I envision everyone, truly everyone, finding a home, a family, and community.
Pride can be the moment we all come together, leaving our petty squabbles and personal politics behind us for one brief moment. And we can do it together, because we have to if we want to move forward. From disability justice to racial justice, our Christopher Street won’t ever find the liberation we all still march for, until all of us do.
Our Liberation Day has got to be for all of us.
Monika MHz is a queer trans Latina who makes her way as a Portland-based House music producer/DJ, activist, and writer. Practicing radical love through music, she believes in the transformative nature of music and its real substantive and cultural power to save lives. You can find Monika online at monikamhz.com and @MonikaMHz.