Last year was the first Philly Pride where we were able to celebrate national marriage equality. And it was a really great Pride: triumphant and joyous. This year, as we find ourselves in the midst of Pride week, we are living in a country where conservatives have been and continue to launch bill after bill aimed at tearing away the progress made toward LGBT equality.
Since the adoption of marriage equality in June 2015, literally hundreds of anti-LGBT bills have been proposed in states across the country, and include everything from trans men and women not being able to urinate in the appropriate bathrooms to businesses having the privilege to deny service to same-sex couples. In short, there have been many ludicrous stances taken in an effort to justify the removal of rights for LGBT individuals and couples.
Unfortunately, this backlash isn’t exactly surprising from a psychological perspective for a few reasons. First, the legalizing of marriage equality, as well as the drastically increased visibility of trans individuals, have brought all of the ultra-conservative homophobes out of dormancy. Just like a virus resting quietly within us until something activates it, these two major changes within mainstream society have launched these folks into a fit of anti-LGBT rage. What’s behind it?
In my personal opinion, I believe that many of the most enraged anti-LGBTers are struggling with a lot of repressed same-sex attraction, and thus, internalized homophobia. Additionally, and perhaps more generally, marriage equality has caused right-wing, religious Americans to believe that they have to fight to protect the country from what they view as shifts toward an immoral, Godless society. It is also highly likely that, on an individual level, many of those at the forefront of this hateful movement are reacting to their inability to tolerate the dissonance between their own beliefs and what’s happening societally, causing them to spring into action (in order to help to tolerate the discomfort).
In light of all of this negativity, it can be very easy to become discouraged, but it is more crucial than ever to rally beyond those disheartened feelings and continue to increase our visibility on local and national levels. When we are visible, more and more people existing within a completely heteronormative experience have the opportunity to realize that we are all just people with the same overall desires as everyone else: to be happy, to be loved, to be treated justly. As such, it is our obligation to continue to have as many fabulous and impactful Pride celebrations as possible and to not fall prey to the notion that these sorts of events are not as necessary as they used to be. They are necessary and we have to continue to support their successes and applaud smaller cities and counties who are just starting out, like Chester County, which just hosted its first Pride celebration in more than a decade last weekend. Every Pride week, parade, festival and block party is helping us to advance our movement.
So this weekend, as we celebrate and rejoice in our amazing, glittery history, let’s do so with the knowledge that it’s not just for fun (even though much fun will be had), and that it is a meaningful and even essential celebration of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. This year is an important one so let’s show up, have fun and be proud of who we are and the courage it takes to be visible and stay visible.
Thank you, guys, for being out and proud with me.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).