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The Meaning of Pride – repost, by Alicia Rubel

Happy Pride Month everyone! We are reposting this blog from 2021.

In honour of Pride Month, I am writing this post on the meaning of Pride. I have sometimes heard people ask why it is called Pride and express confusion about why we associate ourselves with a characteristic that some people consider a sin. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

To understand pride, we have to understand shame. Shame is one of the main tools used to oppress 2SLGBTQIA+ people. If we feel too ashamed to identify ourselves, it is much more difficult to organize and fight for our rights. Many of us have been taught shame by bullies who tried to embarrass us, by religious organizations that call us sinners, or by parents who did not accept us for who we are. It is natural that when so many people tell you to be ashamed you would carry some of that feeling of shame with you.

The first Pride was a riot against police violence. On June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, to arrest people based on their sexual orientation and gender expression. The patrons of the bar refused to go quietly with the police who arrested and assaulted them. The uprising was led by some of the most marginalized members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, including people of colour, trans people, people’s whose clothes were deemed too masculine or too feminine, sex workers, and people without homes. These members of our community were often excluded and treated as shameful by others both within and outside of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. That night, they fought back, throwing coins, bottles, and bricks. Protestors gathered for several nights of demonstrations. In the years that followed, people held marches to commemorate the anniversary of these riots. They came to be known as Gay Pride marches to honour the way that they had proudly stood up to the police. Canadian Pride events have similar origins. In 1981, the Metropolitan Toronto Police raided gay bathhouses in Operation Soap, arresting almost 300 men. Mass protests followed. In both American and Canadian police raids, those arrested faced the threat of having their identities revealed in the press or directly to unsupportive families and employers. Once again, shame was used as a tactic to stifle the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and they responded with pride.

Pride Month can be many things. Often it is a time to remember our history, to protest, and to celebrate. In a world that teaches us shame, celebrating our community and centering our joy is a wonderful act of resistance. For many, expressing pride is healing. Witnessing the pride of others can remind us that love and acceptance are possible. For those still struggling with shame, Pride and the pressure to feel proud can feel overwhelming. For those for who are unable to be open about their identity with others, expressing pride might be unsafe. It is important that we all go at our own pace and be kind to ourselves. Remember that healing from a lifetime of oppression can be a long journey and that pride can look different for different people, even if that pride is private. Your pride is beautiful, and the things you do to keep yourself safe are beautiful. I hope that this Pride is whatever you need it to be.