June 6, 2014

LGBT Pride in 2014: Do We Still Need Gay Pride?

Gay Pride in Key West

The Oxford Dictionaries define Gay Pride as “a sense of dignity and satisfaction in connection with the public acknowledgment of one’s own homosexuality.”

Sure, there’s some truth in the gay pride definition, and I think that gay pride embodies much much more.

Pride is a powerful emotion, and gay pride equally so, and the LGBT Pride parades and festivals around the world, and in our communities, allow us to express our pride loudly and publicly.

We connect with our friends, our neighbors, our families, our allies, and our acquaintances, to celebrate our LGBT community. This exercise gives us a very public platform to remind the world that we’re here (we’re queer &….), and we’re not going anywhere.

British actress and journalist Alice Arnold spoke at an event celebrating London’s Pride last year, and she said “Pride is a party, it’s a party with a message – a message to show London that we are happy, proud and confident to be who we are. Let’s celebrate what we’ve already achieved and brace ourselves for the fight that is still ahead of us.”

Pride is a party, and we have a great deal to celebrate. There are nineteen states, plus the District of Columbia, where same-sex couples can get married. University of Missouri football player Michael Sam came out, and became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the National Football League. UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon came out, and became the first player in the NCAA's Division I Men's Basketball league to come out as gay. Orange Is The New Black actress and trans activist Laverne Cox is on the cover of the current edition of TIME magazine, and she is the first transgender person on the cover.

"Marching For Those Who Can't" in the Stockholm gay pride parade.



The LGBT community has achieved a lot of great things, and we have a lot more work to do. There are many places around the world where being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, can get you killed, and equality is nothing but a pipe dream.

In June 2012, John Aravosis of Americablog wrote about gay pride in Kenya, and the value of being visible. He cited a speech made by the head of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, that illustrates the importance of being a visible force in our communities.

Some may argue that commemorating a June Pride Month that started at Stonewall in West Village, New York is the epitome of western supremacy in an increasingly homogenized global culture; others may even argue that a pride event such as this may have a negative effect on the gains already made in Kenyan LGBTI activism and advocacy. On the extreme, others may even imagine an “insidious agenda” by the Global North in their promotion of human rights for LGBTI.

What makes this day stand out for us here in Kenya however is more than anything else, it is about visibility. If it had Kenyan roots, pride month would probably be celebrated in commemoration of the World Social Forum held in Nairobi in 2007. I recall the story of a girl from Kitui County who at the time was deeply depressed in the thought that she was alone in her sexual orientation. She had been demonized by her pastor and family and had even contemplated suicide until she saw the event being covered on television. The faces of our pioneer bold OUT activists gave her such hope and like many others across the country, she finally felt a sense of belonging and her life changed for the better since.

Whereas Pride Month is about celebrating the giant leaps and also the baby steps made in the movement to win historic rights and cultural acceptance for LGBTI people across the world and indeed in our country, and in as much as we recognize how through covert lobbying, the movement has grown in leaps and bounds, a lot remains to be done. A time has also come to chat out a future where those gains are protected, nurtured and used as a catapult for our vision; a safe and enabling environment for all LGBTI organizations and individuals in Kenya.

So the next time someone asks you why gay pride is important, you can tell them that it’s important because homophobia hasn’t gone away. You can tell them it’s important because anti-gay bullies infect every strata of society, from young to old. You can tell them it’s important because being visible is still a problem in some of our cities and towns, and across the world. And you can also tell them it’s important because you never have to tell the world that you’re straight.

Do we still need LGBT Pride in 2014? You bet we do!

Live out loud and be proud, and support your local LGBT Pride events.

Happy LGBT Pride month!


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