Pride Month is Amazing—But Can Be Scary, Capitalist, and Confusing
By Micaela Freeman
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I get antsy every May. I daydream about Pride marches, how I’m going to show friends extra love, find a possible companion; I daydream about a world in which being LGBTQ+ is just as normal as it is to be straight. I daydream about a world that doesn’t need GLAAD having to go into battle for same sex parents. I want little girls to see it’s perfectly normal to feel feminine and like feminine girls. I hope Taylor Swift’s new song, “You Need to Calm Down” becomes an anthem for gay rights (if it isn’t already).
So, by the time June rolls around, and the weather finally peaks into the eighties, I am ecstatic. I feel full, and brave, and outreached. The LGBTQ+ community finally has the stage without a catch. We can, in theory, tweet, say, or shout whatever we want for our community and not be reprimanded. Pride month is awesome in every way possible.
I do believe that queer people should be treated differently when July comes. I believe that the sense of community should last every day of the year. But, for now, I’ll settle for the warm summer month that offers me a platform to talk more than I already do.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, bringing a bout of full-hearted history and remembrance for our LGBTQ+ members and allies. In 1969, in Greenwich Village, it started with the Stonewall uprising, leading to a scream for advocacy in New York. The event, according to the Library of Congress, was the beginning of the gay liberation that catapulted into the LGBTQ+ movement America sees now.
Growing up, I found myself sneaking glances of happy queer couples down the street. I felt a pulse of familiarity whenever I saw two women holding hands or an ally who spoke so openly and loudly. In high school, I always looked to Pride month as a comfort; I didn’t have to get spat at with “are you gay?” when I vocally acted as an ally. I binged The L Word in one summer, and engulfed every LGBTQ+ movie and book. Growing up, I sought out outlets that allowed me to feel like myself, and enjoy the sense of a community I so desperately needed. I never went to a Pride March; I was lucky enough to go to a Women's March, and by the skin of my teeth was allowed to buy a pride flag. Moving across the country as a child allowed me to redevelop myself whenever we moved, and through the lens of anxiety, middle school harshness, and southern oppression (or what felt like it), I grew to build walls rather than let my sexuality fly free.
As I became more interested in representation and the ideals behind Pride month, I searched bookcases and media platforms to feel more connected. The importance of queer representation for me in highschool helped shape my view on both society and myself; I grew up with Dana and Shane and desperately hung onto Callie and Arizona’s marriage for them rather than enjoying the tenth grade. Though I felt as if my collection of gay cinema had grown, I felt as if my point of view on my sexuality and female sexuality as a whole was revolutionized by queer literature.
Today, the LGBTQ+ community is booming in the media with Netflix’s multiple shows (Tales of the City, One Day at a Time, Lucifer, Orange is the New Black to name a few of my favorites with queer protagonists and just many different types of representation) and the openess of writers and directors as well. During Pride month, I find myself surfing on everyone else's wave and momentum to bring light to our community, binging new movies with representation and rereading favorite books that bring light to the lives of LGBTQ+ members and their loved ones.
This past semester was brimming with 17th and 18th century literature, and it came to my attention that my favorite poet might have been queer. This was revolutionary to me. It was shocking yet comforting and uncomfortable simultaneously. The realization made my skin warm, and I remember going and digging in boxes in my room to find my 1951 edition of Paradise Lost. But, this was important for my little undergrad self. Especially as a little out undergrad who has plans to go to her first Pride in New York. Since I was an avid reader as a child, I always wanted to write. I wrote everything down, kept journals, took a local poetry class; I read every pretentious title an English lit major should read by their fourth year by the time I was sixteen. I was put on this planet to scrutinize, read, and write about literature. I was also put on this planet to advocate for representation and adhere to values that not only better myself, but also better my community and be able to talk about it.
The queer representation given in Paradise Lost, which takes on the genesis epic, gave me way to write about representation and feel well, represented. English poet John Milton takes on the role of the narrator, invoking Muses when he pleases, and redeveloping cannoned characters as if it is just as normal to eat cereal for breakfast. Eve is not a follower of her counterpart, Adam, but rather, an individual brimming with curiosity and the challenge of Falling. Adam is submissive to Angels and desperately wants his wife to fulfill the deed Lilith, his former wife, did not. The Garden of Eden, or Paradise, is as gorgeous as a Sandals commercial and animals leap across laps and water runs at their feet as the sun gives every piece of nature a glistening touch. Arc-angels circle the place like helicopters and Heaven sits on a golden chain. But, amidst the chaos and paradise, Milton inserts a sort of representation that was often chastized and hidden in 1667: his character of Satan is provenly queer. With his past relationship with another arc-angel and his fascination with Adam, Milton’s literature easily points to an aspect of queer representation.
Another piece of literature that popped into my life due to Pride month was Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home. In the midst of sinking into a pride rabbit hole, Picoult’s book popped up as a recommendation. And despite my adoration for John Milton, the contemporary novel by Picoult hits close to home for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. It tackles same sex marriage in a state where it is not yet legal as well as the exploration of having a child as same sex parents. Picoult explores the lives of two women with a lot of strings attached and writes beautifully about queer love with a touch of commentary and legelese.
This past year, queer literature helped allow me to realize that I, a writer, am not compromised due to my taste for women, nor is any writer compromised of his, hers, or their taste of life.
As highly receptive as the media has been during June, an exhibition of pride that finds me conflicted is the we-support-pride-but-only-as-a-selling-advantage point. Walking through a mall can be infuriating when I see billboards for advocacy and love for the LGBTQ+ community when I have never heard anything before seeing the store’s sign. I am racked with questions and unsettlement by Chick-Fil-A’s Twitter profile pic once baring a rainbow font as the iconic logo (this was immediately rescinded due to business backlash). With the streamline of consistencies Chick-Fil-A has had with its view on LGBTQ+ rights, I was shocked. Whether it was the Twitter debacle or business backlash, the profile picture returned back to its regular red and white logo. As businesses and companies show their pride, my view on vocalizing rights gets blurry. Do these companies, who don’t have a non-profit for LGBTQ+ rights or only share vague “love is love” messages, truly support the community or are they capitalizing on our identities? Why should a marginalized group be the reason for corporate gain? When launching a PRIDE campaign, I only hope stores are participating in other ways to support the LGBTQ+ community all year round, such as hiring LGBTQ+ members as well as fighting against discrimination. My mixed feelings that are also paired with excitement this month are stirring. I find myself feeling judgemental. I should be happy stores have PRIDE campaigns, and I am able to babble on Twitter about gay rights.
I love seeing the new campaigns and the plethora of opportunities to spruce up my wardrobe; however, I believe that if a store or company is to launch a PRIDE campaign, I hope they’re donating profits to an LGBTQ+ charity and allowing safe spaces for everyone. I hope they have a queer non-profit partner and are allowing proceeds to help better the safety of queer people.
As June is only thirty days long, campaigns are going to begin to slowly disappear. Rather than capital gain, why can’t companies endlessly support the LGBTQ+ community all year round? Why do I feel funny when I walk by a Chick-Fi- A or a rainbow painted glass wall of a Michael Kors store? Maybe it is just intuition and my fear of oppression; maybe it is getting better, and I am hungry for more.
The country is growing and swelling with new people and solutions everyday; however, at a micro-level, some states still allow discrimination, and seek out legislation to “save” a Chick-Fil-A. In some parts of the country, I wouldn’t have a Pride month to reflect on. But, Pride month offers opportunity to be a voice, and there is always room to be better. As people and as a collective unit.