To Be, or Not to Be Prideful: That is the Question…
Picture it…not being prideful.
At Harvard University in 1920, there was a secret court of five men who worked to ensure that any person that engaged in same sex relationships was expelled from the institution. One of those students, Cyril Wilcox, was found dead by suicide in his own house by his mother. Wilcox had been expelled for living in his own truth as a queer person and committed suicide.
This is not the only case where there has been discrimination against us as the LGBTQ+ community and decades later, the world unfortunately still remains an unsafe space for sexual and gendered minorities. In ancient Greece, Rome, and some indigenous religions, being LGBTQ+ was accepted. Spiritual leaders of indigenous religions who were two-spirited, trans* and non-binary were revered as being the closest to the divine as the divine has not always been one gender. Thus, living in one’s authenticity (PRIDE) was celebrated.
According to GLSEN, there are laws in some states today that prohibit teaching about the LGBTQ+ community in K12 education which have been named “No Promo Homo” Laws. We can also see this same act of discrimination in higher education institutions that have strong religious commitments and others that choose not to discuss LGBTQ+ identities within the curriculum or not having representation in senior leadership. This deliberate silence and erasure from educational institutions is an attack on the pride of the LGBTQ+ community which is unethical.
In a world where some believe and display that LGBTQ+ lives do not matter, we must continue to show the world through our pride that we do matter. Our community has been historically overpoliced and ostracized while simultaneously using our gifts and talents as entertainment to the world. Pride is not incumbent solely on drag performances and artistic expression. The LGBTQ+ community is much more than that. We are parents, teachers, doctors, lawyers, senior administrators, CEOs and the like.
Bayard Rustin, the civil rights activist who was responsible for organizing the March on Washington was the thought partner of Dr. Martin Luther King; however, his sexuality was often silenced due to the intersections of his race and sexuality. While Bayard is an unsung hero, he showed his pride by continuing to do his social justice work while being ridiculed for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Without Bayard Rustin, there would be no March on Washington.
Without the LGBTQ+ community and our pride, where would the world be?
How many are still discriminated against because we exude pride of LGBTQ+ identity in our families, communities, and workplaces?
Picture It in a Different Way
The LGBTQ+ community is everywhere and should be able to show our pride in ways that makes sense as a community.
Thus, we need co-conspirators as Dr. Bettina Love discusses in her book, which are in essence people that are more than allies. An ally can choose how they support while co-conspirators are on the front line of ensuring that we have the same rights of pride and privilege as they do (in this case, the co-conspirators would be cisgender, heterosexual people).
This month, I encourage everyone to B.E.:
- Bold: Embody being bold enough to be brave. Shine your light of pride to the world as a member and co-conspirator of the LGBTQ+ community. To those who are co-conspirators, this would be a great month to be bold in showing your pride to support our community, especially those who have loved ones who are LGBTQ+.
- Engaging: Take time this month to watch the Hulu special called “Pride” to learn more about the history of the LGBTQ+ movements and how we still need systemic change for the LGBTQ+ community in the form of policies, legislation, non-discrimination protections and other aspects that make living authentically as an LGBTQ+ person difficult.
Living in shame instead of living in pride as LGBTQ+ causes our natural light of life to be dimmed. The challenge here is for those who are prideful about being LGBTQ+ to continue to share our pride with other community members that are continuously navigating the harsh realities that being authentically comes along with.
To Be Free and Prideful is Our Mandate
Due to the sanitization and deliberate erasure of LGBTQ+ movements, everyone must do their due diligence to reclaim LGBTQ+ history and ensure that we are not silenced/erased from society. Just because the community has not been acknowledged does not mean that we do not exist. Therefore, this Pride Month, we embody the presence of our ancestors that were murdered and died without being able to experience the pride of being LGBTQ+.
We embody their presence and struggle because had it not been for them, we would not be able to express and show our pride as LGBTQ+ people and co-conspirators. Pride validates our existence. To those who have struggled with faith and being LGBTQ+, please note that we are wonderfully made and are not mistakes.
When we learn to be prideful, we can continue to change the world for the better and be a beacon of light to those who are watching and waiting for us to come forth as possibility models for those who are fearful of exhibiting PRIDE. Heterosexism and transphobia have never been the “norm.” It has been made the norm because LGBTQ+ Pride has not been permitted to serve as a dominant narrative.
Well, hopefully, the LGBTQ+ Community and Co-Conspirators will change that.
Showing LGBTQ+ pride is risky because it challenges the status quo of heteronormativity and heterosexism; however, it comes with great reward. Somebody needs to see our Pride. Somebody needs to hear our stories. Somebody is waiting for us to show up! In 2021, people are craving for authenticity. Our lives matter. Our PRIDE matters and it is my hope that we all celebrate this month with PRIDE.
While we all have more work to do for LGBTQ+ equity, inclusion and belonging, we can celebrate where we have come from and gain fuel to go even further. In the words of Mama Ru Paul, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else”?
With Love, Light, and Positive Vibrations,
Reverend J. Wesley,
Sr. Director of Equity and Inclusion, Academic Affairs
Jonathan Wesley is the senior director of equity and inclusion, Academic Affairs at SNHU. Wesley is a millennial, interdisciplinary practivist (Practitioner-Academic-Activist), member of clergy and is queer in every aspect of the word. He is a servant leader by theory and practice and lives by the mantra, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living will not be in vain.” Wesley holds a BA in Sociology, Master of Education, Master of Religion, two graduate certificates and will complete his PhD this coming fall.