by Mike Smith
Certainly, arguments have been made that the older we are, the more importance we place on the value of Pride and its hard-fought celebrations. Then again, many younger gays will suggest that there is no way one could enjoy non-stop pride events more than themselves.
They are prideful and wear their pride pridefully, damn it. And, of course, to most they are both right; one is hard-pressed to find someone in the LGBT+ community who doesn’t value the work that has been done since the Stonewall riots to allow us the freedoms to celebrate who we are openly and yes, pridefully. So, does our age impact how we feel about pride and more importantly, its value?
I know of two brothers in their 40s/50s who are both openly gay. Only six years apart in age, their experiences are quite different. Both from rural America, the eldest of the two — not having LGBT+ community role models as a child—had to find his own path and went o to college and did just that and connected with his tribe and began to connect with others to celebrate Pride.
Still somewhat careful with when and where to display his pridefulness and only when he and his friends could retreat out of town would they truly celebrate — attend the events, the parade, wear their prideful attire, etc. Pride celebrations provided a certain “coverage” and safety that the older brother hadn’t experienced until his 20s.
By the time the younger of the brothers rose to an age that he was beginning to become comfortable in his gayness, he had his older brother who introduced him to Pride, but also a queer community which provided sanctuary as he continued to explore his sexuality.
While Pride celebrations were certainly fun and still somewhat taboo to his straight friends or work community, he had been introduced to the gay lifestyle by his brother, therefore not feeling as though festivities were his only place to connect — he had found a community before he experienced his first pride events.
Their experiences clearly different, but more valuable to one than the other? Perhaps this isn’t about Pride — the festivities — at all, but simply about our time in the march to equality with Pride as a marking point annually in one’s life.
Older generations had to secretly engage with their community, while nowadays, every brand out there slaps the rainbow on their product, and we can’t hide from it. We are all prideful—even our toilet paper and shoes are prideful it seems.
Pride’s value is derived from each of our own personal experiences. From the black trans woman who threw the first brick at Stonewall 50 years ago to the straight teenage allies to the six-year-old who walked in this year’s first Pride Parade right here in Nashville – the Pride experience is personal and you bet, has immeasurable value, no matter our age.