(Orginally published HERE)
Today, June 1st, is my wife’s birthday. I like to go ham every year with balloons, flowers, too many gifts, the whole shebang. Call it my love language. What’s important to me is that she feels especially seen, secure, and respected. Coincidentally, that’s all I usually want out of Pride Month. However, I seldom get through the whole of June without feeling disappointed, if not completely disenfranchised by the season. It’s also difficult to celebrate something I wish was as mundane as the weather. Honestly, I want my sexual and gender identities to be the most boring thing about me.
Don’t get me wrong — Pride was soooo exciting when I was younger. Important and formative, too, but it was the raw thrill of the thing that drew me to all the colors, gatherings, and bold graphic t-shirts arriving in droves at Target and Old Navy. Problematic fast-fashion practices aside, I also reveled in having four long weeks to hog the spotlight; to preach equality on social media, to get in the face of conservative family members, to paint my eyes in a rainbow (ha) of shimmery shadows all in the name of visibility. Living in New Jersey, it’s always been safe to do this. Always. I cannot stress that privilege enough, and I’m truly grateful for it despite the Pride Month grievances I’ve been so keen on accumulating.
Now here we are in my 30’s, after I’ve spent the last decade coming out over and over and over again. Thanks to pesky and persistent heteronormativity, it’s as common as telling people my name or relaying my coffee order. It’s an inevitable part of setting my pronouns in a zoom call. It’s in the awkward laugh after “how did you meet your husband?”. It’s the bane of my gynecologist’s existence every time I’m asked about being ‘sexually active’. It’s why I don’t spend the holidays with my uncle Danny or cousin Denise anymore, though that’s no great loss.
As you can imagine, these day-to-day ‘outings’ can get tiresome as time goes on. For many outside the Garden State, they can be downright terrifying. Worse, they may put needless pressure on closeted queers who already have an unbearable choice: bottle it up and lie or legitimately risk the abrupt loss of stability and personal safety. Seriously, I have a 30-something year old pal down in the Bible Belt who almost put themselves in the hospital over revealing their bisexuality last June. That isn’t pride. That’s hell on the nervous and digestive system.
I also happen to work at an enormous, highly corporate company. When I logged on this morning, I was promptly tasked with changing all of our logos across the interwebs to their rainbow counterparts. What I was not tasked with was drafting any sort of copy to celebrate, or even acknowledge the LGBTQ+ community. And, as I went through the motions, I saw dozens of companies making the same well-intentioned, but largely empty gesture. As with every June 1st, the internet is vomiting ROYGBIV in all directions and calling it ‘solidarity’.
I know I sound like a major grump right now, but hear me out. The first Pride was a riot. The month is meant to represent revolution and radical change in the enduring face of oppression. It’s a loud and wild cry for equality and safety in a world that’s routinely breeding ignorance, inciting violence, and denying life saving healthcare and resources. Today, as folks slap temporary rainbows onto their profile pics, there are 491 anti-LGBTQ bills circulating in the US. Trans people also continue to be at highest risk of hate crime related death year over year. Conversion therapy is still legal in 30 out of 50 states. Queer people are excluded from their own religions, families, professions, education, and communities with alarming regularity. Hell, it’s easier for most LGBTQ+ Americans to buy a firearm than it is to safely use a public bathroom.
Where is the pride in all of that nonsense? Certainly not in plastic flags, or drag brunches, or sweltering parades charging attendees $7 for a bottle of water. Personally I, your friendly neighborhood nonbinary gay, don’t want any of it. No t-shirts, no cocktails, no ‘Pride in the Park’ festivals with the same beads and pins and bracelets being sold. This June (and every June to come) I just want to be allowed to exist, safely and freely, like anybody else. It’s not a whole lot to ask, yet here I am, exhausted from the unending effort of posing the question.
My silver lining is my wife and I are going out for sushi this evening, then settling in at home to play some video games together. That’s how she wants to spend her birthday, and I’m so grateful for the banality of it all. And so, I’ll be spending my June quietly championing more hard-earned days of pleasant triviality. Not just for me, but for every single one of us.