I’ve been traveling out of the country for the last couple of weeks, and with what seems to be so much disagreement in our community on a range of issues, and the ongoing doubts about where our struggle is leading, I thought I’d share with you a few snapshots from my trip — which should give you a different view of our community and our accomplishments.
My trip has taken me to Asia. It has always been on my bucket list to see a place full of temples called Angkor Wat, deep in Cambodia. There are no direct flights from the U.S. or Europe so, to get there, your first point is a major city in Asia that has flights to Siem Reap, the city of 300,000 next to the Angkor complex.
After several days of touring some of the 300 temples — one of which on its own has 402 acres — and seeing the floating villages, on the last night it seemed only appropriate to visit one of the two gay bars/clubs in this tiny, dusty, very humid outpost.
There were about 30 customers, and since it was a Saturday night, many were there to see a drag show. The crowd was a mix of locals and tourists. While I was sitting at my table just watching the crowd, I overheard a group behind me speaking in English and talking with excitement about the upcoming Gay Pride in Tai Pea, on Oct. 28. For some reason, I turned to face them and one of them said in a friendly voice, full of pride, “You should come to Pride.” My response, with a smile, was, “I have.”
Turning around, it began to dawn on me that this sense of pride he has, and so many others around the world have, is a gift to them by us here in the U.S. We invented Pride. We taught the world to have pride. We exported that to every part of the world, and today it is the rallying cry to fight for equality. In some countries, people have to literally endure attacks from brutal, roving gangs and arrests, but still they cling to Pride. And in emerging countries, even in Cambodia, you go down a little street and you can see Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag waving proudly in the breeze.
We can change the world, and we have. What Pride stands for since that very first one in June 1970, created by a gentleman named Craig Rodwell, was a call for unity in our community, and a day to celebrate us. It is our day, and it stands for our struggle. “Pride” is one strong word, and it’s not just a word — we’ve made it a symbol, and it has become symbolic across the entire world.