It’s not a secret that the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia is in a time of transition. It’s also no secret that we’ve found ourselves in this transitional period because the need for change became imperative. As we’ve been seeing, community leaders are working diligently to affect positive change and to bridge gaps in our community relating to matters such as racial inequities and the safety of our most vulnerable community members. For example, last week we had our first-ever LGBTQ State of the Union. Real, long-lasting change takes time.
As we get our bearings and a sense of where we’ll land on the other side of all this, it continues to be important to celebrate the beauty and true importance of community and to show our pride — even as we acknowledge our flaws.
Community allows for a sense of belonging from which all people are likely to experience benefits. But it is minorities and those who are socially marginalized who seem to benefit the most. Marginalized individuals are more susceptible to depression, substance abuse, feelings of isolation and low self-esteem than the population at large; however, there is a variety of research that speaks to the correlation between a strong sense of community and increased individual well-being (which, by the way, is all the more reason to continue to work to ensure real inclusion within our community).
For the LGBTQ community, we started to become an actual community in bathhouses and back-alley bars. Eventually, despite being hidden from the view of mainstream society, the community became collectively empowered and strong enough to take a stand, expressing the first outward shows of pride. But, certainly, the strong bond, camaraderie and shared experience among members of the earliest gay communities around our country endowed those very brave individuals with the courage and resilience needed to start a revolution. As we find ourselves decades later still fighting for full equality, tolerance and acceptance, it is only through a solid sense of community that we will continue to move forward. This is perhaps the most important reason to celebrate Pride and to celebrate us.
Without Pride, we would be hard-pressed to find the sort of motivation and power required to consistently work towards the creation of real change and social movement — both on a societal level and within our own community. Pride is, in many ways, the backbone of our community as well as the substance that binds us.
With the current state of things in our country being what they are and with our community in the midst of a serious makeover, it can be easy to become discouraged, disenchanted and even disengaged. This is all the more reason 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 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. When we join together as a community, we increase our ability to create positive change on a grassroots level.
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, important or inspiring as they once were.
So, this year, let’s enjoy every moment of our Pride-filled weekend with the awareness of what we are doing there and why we need to celebrate us.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and the owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).