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Reflections on Buffalo Pride Week 2017

Last weekend, 80 of Horizon’s employees participated in the annual Buffalo Pride Festival. One of Horizon’s team members, Steve, reflects on what Pride Week means to him as well as the impact he hopes it has on our communities.

Hello team,

I’ve been thinking a good deal about Horizon participating in the Buffalo Pride parade this weekend. First, I wanted to share that, out of the many jobs I’ve had over the years, this is the first time that I’ve worked for an organization where marching together in the Pride Parade was even a real option. It means a great deal to me to be a part of a community where coming together in this way is possible. All of the e-mails from colleagues saying that they would like to participate in the parade are a H.E.A.R.T. warming addition to my inbox. Thank you.

At the same time, I have been thinking back on past Pride Weeks, and on conversations with many who have attended Pride, whether as a member of an LGBTQ community or as an ally. I am reminded that Pride means a great many things to a great many people in a diverse set of communities. I am also reminded that these many meanings are often missed.

Indeed, over the years, I have been asked more than once why Pride matters, and whether it is a good thing to have pride in an aspect of myself that I have little control over. I’ve been asked why we march, why drag queens and half-naked dancers need to be in our streets. So, speaking for myself as someone who identifies as a cisgender gay male, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what Pride means to me.

Perhaps most important, Pride is an act of protest and resistance. It arose out of the 1969 Stonewall Riot, and so serves as a remembrance of an important milestone in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights. In this, Pride is a public re-affirmation of both a “no” and a “yes”.

No, we will not be silent and hide away from the public view.

Yes, our lives are worth being lived, loved, and recognized publicly. We have value.

For many, Pride also has a more solemn side. It is a time of remembrance for those who have been lost to drugs, disease, and discrimination. LGBTQ people still face significant barriers, including extensive physical and emotional violence. Statistically, we are more likely to be living in poverty. Our communities face homelessness and suicide at especially high rates. This is especially true for trans* people and LGBTQ people of color. And so, Pride Week is also a time to remember those we have lost, as well as to re-commit to the hard work of changing hearts and minds, and building stronger families and communities.

This June also marks the one year anniversary of the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, where over 100 queer Latino people were targeted, wounded, or killed by a gunman. LGBTQ communities still feel the effects of this act of terror. We are reminded that the spaces that we once thought of as safe can still be targeted. Those we care about can still be made a statistic as we celebrate, even when surrounded by communities of support.

This alone is a reason to march. It is also a reason to remember that, while there is revelry, for many at Pride there is still a worry, and a question about whether we are truly safe. Because the reality is, there is still much work to do to make LGBTQ communities safer. And that means that it falls to those of us who enter LGBTQ spaces to do all that we can to make those spaces as safe, respectful, and inclusive as possible.

In the end, the Buffalo Pride Parade is not about dancing in the streets and partying at the waterfront. It is about a community coming together publicly and saying, “We exist, and there is value in who we are.” The celebration is less important than what we are celebrating. We are celebrating that “yes” which echoes over the years, through generations of fear and pain and loneliness, and which offers hope to a better tomorrow to millions whose lives and bodies are beaten, legislated against, and rejected. Pride is a public statement of this vision of hope. To march in the Buffalo Pride Parade is to commit ourselves to that vision.

So, when we step off together in a spirit of celebration, support, and community, I will be reminding myself of the many meanings of Pride, and challenging myself to honor that space and all of its strange, complex, multifaceted realities. I look forward to joining with you there.

Respectfully your colleague,