Presuming that you’re living in the 21st century, you will be aware that June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride is a time for celebration and, as is in the name, pride for the community itself. And yet every year the same age-old question arises: should straight people be allowed to march?
The history of Pride is understandably both an empowering and heartbreaking subject. Pride originated in New York in 1969, with a riot at the Stonewall Inn following one of the raids that often occurred in LGBTQ+ friendly spaces. These raids were frequently intrusive – anyone in feminine clothes would have to prove their female anatomy to police officers – and it was at this point that the tolerance limit of this discrimination had been reached.
It’s quite easy now to forget why Pride exists, or why there is still a need for it to exist (straight pride has been demanded by allegedly “oppressed” cisgender heterosexuals for over 30 years). Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and with the increased visibility of the LGBTQ+ community has emerged an increase in the voices of what is either blatant homophobia or simply an ignorant refusal to empathise. So, when various members of the community resist allowing straight people to march with us, this should come as no real shock. The reasoning is clear: straight people cannot relate to our history, have not experienced discrimination in the way we have, are not explicitly part of the LGBTQ+ community and may even oppose its legitimate existence.
Pride is a time for the LGBTQ+ community, the moment when we can come together to show that we exist and that we deserve to exist. For some, to share this is to loosen the link to our history and to others in our community. Is there much sense in allowing people whose existence goes unquestioned for 12 months of the year and who effectively have 11 straight pride months, to march with those who are celebrating the time in which they can forget the toxic shame that has caused a repression of their innate nature and identity?
My answer, despite the above, is yes; there is always sense in allowing straight people to march in Pride. In fact, there is far more sense in allowing them to march than rebuking their presence entirely.
As has already been established, Pride is a time for the LGBTQ+ community to be openly proud of their identities. This has now become not simply a march to end the harassment and belittling of the community, but a march for acceptance. Self-acceptance, yes, but also acceptance from those outside our community.
We expect, justifiably, to be integrated into a society in which 90 percent of people identify as straight. We are a minority. We do not have the power to be exclusionary. If there is to be acceptance, there must also be the recognition that this applies to our actions towards those outside the LGBTQ+ umbrella.
In excluding straight people, and by ‘straight people’ I am talking about straight allies rather than those with exclusionary views themselves, from celebrating our identities we only marginalise ourselves further. We extend the separation and misunderstandings between the two. The irony of demanding to be a part of society and then actively seeking to shelter ourselves from said society is frankly ridiculous.
I do not dispute that Pride should center around the LGBTQ+ community, and in attending any straight allies should be fully aware of this. However, the solution to all our discriminatory issues and subconscious bias toward cisgendered heterosexuality does not come in the form of the insular surroundings of only those inside the community. I return to the issue of reactions; if we act in this way for the one month we are given to freely express ourselves, what do we expect from the other eleven months in which our straight contemporaries dominate? Just as we feel resentment and anger from the varying exclusivity of society, so would any straight ally who is rejected from showing their support.
And it is this support that is so vital in our fight for acceptance. We fight for equality and inclusivity; why divide when we are given a choice? Why would the 90 percent of the population who do not identify as LGBTQ+ include us, the clear minority, if we can’t even include those who fully support our rights? The point of Pride, as the name would suggest, is to be proud of who we are. How can we do so if we do not have the support of others, if we are continuously shamed and dehumanised?
We are not equal yet – we have much further to go. But we are much, much stronger if we act as a combined potential rather than with solely the remaining 10 percent of the population.
With this being said, there is a certain level of conduct that should be upheld by straight allies when attending Pride. It is an enjoyable event that should be welcoming to everyone, but that is not to say the history behind it takes a back foot. To all of us celebrating Pride this month, there is a deeper meaning that an enjoyable afternoon with music and alcohol should not distract us from. This is a time for humans as a whole to support each other as equals, to show our solidarity no matter what identity or sexual persuasion.
Read our history, take from it what you will, and please, celebrate it with us.