By Maggie Stern
The headlines this Pride month have been ugly: Hateful, threatening rhetoric attacking teachers and parents for supporting kids’ authentic self-expression. Proposed and passed legislation to silence and criminalize conversation about LGBTQ+ identities. A mental health crisis among trans and nonbinary children reflected in heartbreaking testimony begging the Department of Family and Protective Services to end investigations against families with trans youth.
Amidst the ugliness, I remind myself that queerness is beautiful. My queerness has made my life so much more beautiful, so much more joyful and full of love, since I first understood that I was bisexual four years ago.
Everyone’s story is different. I have friends and loved ones whose earliest words expressed their gender and sexual identities. I didn’t have that language to describe how I felt for years. In retrospect, I know I was afraid. I was afraid to explore the clothes and music and spaces that challenged the assumptions I made about myself. I was afraid of expressing affection towards my female friends, scared that a hug or an acknowledgement that I cared about them might have a meaning I didn’t intend. I was afraid to read books with LGBTQ+ characters, telling myself I couldn’t possibly relate to their stories (as if kid wizards and dystopian competitions were so much more relatable).
It took me 21 years to find the language and people to talk about my identity without fear. That’s not to say I’m no longer afraid. I just have new fears now. I fear the violence of hatred and ignorance that threatens the safety and wellbeing of all LGBTQ+ folks, and particularly trans and nonbinary folks. I fear the silence of supposed allies who will go to a gay bar for a drink but won’t go to a public hearing to defend our right to live our beautiful, joyous lives. But I am no longer afraid to celebrate Pride, myself, and my queer community in all our complexities.
So what does Pride mean to me this year?
Pride is a joyous celebration that must welcome everyone—no matter your gender, sexuality, or other identities—to show up authentically and in community.
Pride is a memorial to every one of us whose beautiful life has been cut short by the ugliness of individual and institutional anti-queer violence, from the AIDS epidemic to the murders of Black trans women to the intimate partner violence that disproportionately harms bisexual women.
Pride is a promise to keep fighting for a world without fear for the generations of queer youth to come. Because there have always been and will always be queer youth, who love and explore their identities and support each other.
Take action this Pride—and next month and the month after that too. Ask your State Board of Education member to teach the truth about LGBTQ+ history as they revise Texas’ social studies standards. Donate to organizations fighting for queer liberation and to mutual aid funds supporting vulnerable LGBTQ+ individuals. Show up at a local school board meeting in the midst of ongoing ugly attacks against queer youth to be a voice of love.
Happy Pride <3
Youth Civic Education and Engagement Coordinator