I’ve seen enough people ask why Pride celebrations still happen “nOw ThAt GaYs CaN gEt MaRrIeD” that while it’s likely a rhetorical question, I want to answer it anyway. All the energy it takes not to roll my eyes or stomp my feet has to go somewhere.
And more importantly, it matters to me that people understand, because the question — which I read as more of an expression of annoyance or distaste — illuminates exactly why society still needs and benefits from Pride celebrations. At best, the lived experience of LGBTQ people like me isn’t understood, and more likely, our unabashed presence in the world isn’t yet fully welcomed.
So, even though modern-day festivals and parades have been platforms for the work of achieving the freedom for same-sex couples to marry (or to address other injustices we face), LGBTQ Pride is more complex than any singular policy issue.
It has to be; because we are.
Pride, at least as well as I can articulate it, is the manifestation of queer joy and a celebration of our perseverance in the struggle to belong.
If my use of the word “queer” made you bristle, that’s another sign we haven’t yet arrived. While I find the reclamation of the word powerfully positive, its history of being used derogatorily and often with violence is too recent and too painful for many.
And it’s true that we have made incredible political and social gains since the Stonewall uprising in 1969 that set in motion our annual explosion of rainbows and gaiety (har).
In the last decade alone here in Utah, I witnessed (via my work with Equality Utah) when our community achieved the freedom to marry; established anti-discrimination protections in housing and employment; became protected by a stronger, clearer hate crimes law; repealed the anti-LGBTQ curriculum law “no promo homo,” which prevented the discussion of “homosexuality” in public schools; made it possible for transgender folks to have their appropriate sex listed on their state records; and other wins.
But we have not yet realized full legal equality.
We still have to fight anti-LGBTQ — particularly anti-transgender — legislation with an unfortunate frequency. And we certainly feel the sometimes literal pain of discrimination and hate at our jobs, in our homes, in our places of worship, when we access health care and even walking down the street.
In 2021 alone, at least 27 transgender individuals have been murdered, following the 44 who were killed last year in what was the most violent year for our transgender brothers and sisters on record, as tracked by the Human Rights Campaign.
All of this is to say why Pride is so much more than “gay marriage” and is so many things to so many people.
It’s a party and a riot. It’s personal and it’s political. It’s about safety and access. It’s about sex and sometimes not at all about sex. It’s environmentalism, feminism, Black Lives Matter, immigration, modern parenthood (and the rejection of “breeding”), the evolution of the gender binary, and the celebration of gray areas and difference.
It’s the communal table we set to welcome all those who want to feast on the bounty of diversity.
For some who attend, it’s the first or only place they feel comfortable dressing authentically or holding the hand of their partner in a public space. For others, it’s a platform to seek justice. Or an act of courage and self-love. Or a time to meet others who are walking similar paths.
Pride is shelter. Pride is nourishment. Pride is love.
Pride is necessary.
So, to all those who wonder why we still gather, I invite you to find out. Grab a rainbow boa, suspend your judgment of yourself (c’mon) and others, and join us.
You deserve to love more, too.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.