By: Jason Lydon*/TRT Columnist—
I had the pleasure of attending Youth Pride as an adult ally on May 18th. I was overcome with joy watching youth walk around holding hands, carrying signs for free hugs and kisses. Some of the attendees were shirtless and covered in sparkles, others were in meticulous Goth outfits. There were young people dancing, picking up resources, flirting, getting HIV/STI testing and creating a space to celebrate their queerness. It is incredible to watch how things have changed since I attended my first youth pride in 1997, or in 1999 when my Mom and I spoke together on the steps of the State House. I will never forget being introduced to the LGBTQ movement as a teenager. I was trying to survive violent bullying at school. I was blessed to be supported by adults and lifted into leadership positions. I learned that my voice mattered even as many others were trying to silence me. [pullquote]LGBTQ youth are resilient, powerful and fierce. Queer youth of color are organizing balls to celebrate each other even while throwing shade. Homeless youth are using art and storytelling to force people to pay attention in Harvard Square.[/pullquote]
While much has changed, there are still so many things left undone. LGBTQ young people are still taking their lives at alarming rates, harming their bodies, being pushed into the streets, forced to bring weapons to school to defend themselves and losing services through cuts on state and federal levels. Yet there is still so much to find pride in. LGBTQ youth are resilient, powerful and fierce. Queer youth of color are organizing balls to celebrate each other even while throwing shade. Homeless youth are using art and storytelling to force people to pay attention in Harvard Square. Youth in Springfield are organizing Know-Your-Rights trainings and informing other youth how to navigate the realities of policing. Youth across Massachusetts are starting and maintaining Gay/Straight Alliances, educating their peers and challenging the adult dominance of LGBTQ community work. LGBTQ youth are also getting crushes, going on dates, making out, exploring sex and breaking each others’ hearts. Adults have the responsibility to support, nurture and encourage youth leadership while stepping back and offering comfort when it is needed. I find it very appropriate that Youth Pride comes before the June Pride festival. My hope is that Youth Pride reminds us to pay attention to the parts of our LGBTQ communities that we too often ignore or speak for. Youth Pride is a reminder that youth have a voice of their own. We must lift up the voices of youth and all those who Pride festivals are quick to leave out. [pullquote]My hope is that Youth Pride reminds us to pay attention to the parts of our LGBTQ communities that we too often ignore or speak for. Youth Pride is a reminder that youth have a voice of their own.[/pullquote]
While I spend many of my articles talking about the downfalls of many who claim leadership in LGBTQ communities, I have immense love for so much of who we are. When I get beyond the corporate marchers, I know I can find powerful and beautiful voices that echo through the streets as people march during Pride. I also know that there are many people present who may not get seen, honored, or celebrated for who they are. Here are a few things, in no particular order, I will be celebrating during Pride:
- Chubby bears walking around without shirts. These guys are some of my favorite challenges to the body fascism of gay male culture.
- The Hispanic/Black Gay Coalition’s continuously growing presence in Boston and their influence on community work.
- The Network/La Red’s outfits and attention getting to ending partner abuse in LGBTQ, polyamorous and BD/SM communities.
- Dogs in bandanas and other doggie clothes.
- People making out and ducking into alleyways to play.
- Sex workers, who are too often shamed, not often enough celebrated.
- Sober queers.
- Leather! Lots of hot sweaty people in leather chaps/shorts/harnesses.
- Queens who spend the entire day in enormous heels.
- Newly out queers/trans folks who are celebrating in public for the first time.
- Formerly incarcerated LGBTQ people getting access to other LGBTQ people without the same level of violence or surveillance.
- Our history. I take some of my greatest pride in remembering that it was not long ago that Charley Shively burned the Bible at Pride in protest of violence by the church against our communities. It was not long ago that Pride was a protest against the Vietnam war. It was not long ago that Fag Rag and Gay Community News marched in Pride. It was not long ago that Pride marched by a jail chanting along with the people inside. It was not long ago that nudity was a celebrated rather than censored part of Pride. I take pride in our history knowing that there are new directions I want to see our movement go. I take pride in a history that prioritizes the experiences of criminalized LGBTQ people, queer people of color, transgender people, poor queers and those who will remind us that assimilation will never equal liberation.
*Rev. Jason Lydon is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Boston. He is a long time anti-prison organizer and founder of Black & Pink, an LGBTQ-focused effort working toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex. Jason is also an avid lover of famous people and blockbuster action flicks. You can reach Jason at email@example.com.