The Past, Present & Future of Pride / by Didier Young

Hi, my name is Didier and I am gay. This might sound like a confessional that one might hear at an AA meeting and I won’t lie, for years it did feel like something that I had to be ashamed of. I grew up on a gorgeous island with white beaches and summery temperatures year long but like most islands, being gay is a huge taboo. Even after moving to Toronto, it took me a few years to realize that it was okay to openly mention my sexual preferences without having to be afraid of repercussions. I felt liberated and like I could finally become myself here but unfortunately, not everyone is given that chance in the world.

I will admit that it took me years to warm up to the idea of Pride. Nowadays it often feels trivialized and somewhat dumbed down to a party for the scantily clad and a great way to pocket some extra change on rainbow themed merchandise. I felt safe in my Toronto bubble and convinced myself that the rest of the world had also become an equally accepting place but I was wrong. Yemen, Iran, Brunei, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan are some of the countries where same- sex relationships are punishable by law, ranging from imprisonment to capital punishment and whenever I go to the gorgeous Caribbean islands, I am encouraged not to disclose the fact that I am gay. 

However, those issues aren’t reserved solely to the developing countries. Let’s not forget the Orlando shooting at Pulse on June 12th 2016 or even the lower scale attacks that happened this month itself in London and Washington, two of the most progressive cities in the developed world. It is easy to turn a blind eye on these issues and think that everything is okay. That we are all safe and accepted but at the end of the day, this is an ongoing battle that we need to fight everyday of the year. Our emancipation doesn’t end with Pride but rather it started with it.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots when the gay uprising started in Greenwich village, New York and it became the catalyst for the very first gay Pride marches in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. At the time, Stonewall Inn was the only bar for gay men in New York City where dancing was allowed. It was home to the people who frequented it, a safer haven when they could go and fully be themselves and after another police raid, they rose up and fought for it. My last trip to New York City marked my first time to the Stonewall Memorial Monument and being in the birthplace of the movement that allowed me to freely be myself really tug at my heartstrings and inspired this blog post. I do not typically write about Pride each year but I felt that it was important to remember what it truly stands for. It isn’t simply a festival filled with rainbow colours or a reason to wear a mesh crop top and a leather harness. It is a movement that finally gave rights to a marginalized portion of the world. 

However, the fight doesn’t stop there and it is our duty to keep on educating people. It may be hard to change the mindset of the older generation who grew up being told that being gay isn’t okay but we can shape the newer generation. We can tell them that it is okay to be whoever they want to be and to love whoever they want to. After all, love is love is love.

-Didier