Pride Over Shame: Why The LGBTQ Community Still Needs Pride Festivals

by Betty Fuentes

My girlfriend, Geo, and I were looking forward to Boston's Pride Festival. She’d never gone to a pride festival, and I’d only been to one other before.

We woke up, had breakfast and headed out to the City Hall Plaza. As soon as we got off the subway, we were greeted by rainbow flags on almost every restaurant, convenience store, bank and bar in eyesight.

We looked at each other and smiled. Following the masses of brightly dressed couples, dogs and babies, we made it to the parade.

Elementary students walked with their teachers, proudly displaying signs of their support for our love. Bands, made up of musicians from our community, played all kinds of music.

Big companies, like Bank of America, Macy’s and TD Bank, welcomed and celebrated all of their customers, no matter their sexual identity or gender. Floats celebrated intersectionality between sexual orientation, race and ethnicity.

Community members reminded us of the importance of fighting against the injustices of a subset of the community (in this case, black trans women).

But the best part, by far, was the families. Two dads stood with their two daughters, who appeared to be 6 and 8.

When Elsa from "Frozen" walked down the parade, they flipped out. Two moms held their beautiful baby boy. Another mom was proudly holding up an “I love my transgender son” poster.

All ethnicities, all income levels, all races and all genders: Every family was celebrated.

When the parade was over, we sat in the audience with our rainbow flags, waiting for Mary Lambert to perform. When she sang “She Keeps Me Warm,” which doubles as mine and Geo’s song, we looked around in awe.

Couples held on to each other a little tighter with their heads together, and some even dropped tears. I held onto Geo’s waist, and her hand placed itself on my knee. After her performance, we headed home.

Imagine, for a second, living a life where no one was like you. For a lot of us, this isn’t hard to imagine.

Maybe it's the color of your skin, your body type or whom you loved. But, you don’t see yourself in your family, in your school, in your neighborhood or on your TV.

You thought you were a misfit because there was no one you could relate to.

That’s how it is for most LGBTQ folks, and this was how it was for me.

Imagine growing up and being taught from a very early age you would marry a gorgeous man and give birth to children. Your children need a father, just as much as you need a husband.

You were told girls didn’t wear basketball shorts or help with setting up the barbecue. Girls wore dresses and helped make breakfast.

Now imagine, once a year, everything you were ever told, everything you always thought about yourself, gets flipped upside down.

Suddenly, you’re not the minority. Somehow, the people around you look like you. They’re holding hands the way you’d like to. They have families, families that look like the one you always knew you wanted.

You’re not strange. You fit in perfectly. In this space, you are just one of the many.

The whole world tells you to be ashamed of who you are, but on this day, today, you get to be proud.

And then, the day ends.

As Geo and I walked back to the T, we slowly let go of each other's hands, put the multicolored bracelets in our front pockets, folded up the flags and tucked them away in the backpack.

I spill the water left in my bottle over my forearm to wash away the rainbow that was drawn on in a tent at the festival.

In a very movie-ready scene, the colors drip down. There is now no trace of where we were, who we are, or who we love on either of us.

We ride back silently, both of us debriefing in our own minds all the things we saw that Saturday, the night we talked about what a long way this community has come and how long it has to go.

When we were sitting on the steps, we were looking out at this one beautiful family, two moms watching their daughter as she jumped from step to step.

I said, “It’s a good time to be gay.”

And Geo answered, “Yeah, today.”

Because the reality is that most days, almost all days, it's not.

And this is why we need pride festivals.

Until parents no longer assume their daughters will have husbands.

Until the people on my favorite sitcoms love like me.

Until romantic comedies don’t always end with the boy getting the girl.

Until no child is bullied because he or she doesn’t fit the socially constructed molds for what a boy or a girl should look like.

Until every assault and murder of a trans person is prosecuted.

Until acts of violence no longer happen against someone because of gender presentation.

Until children can safely say they have two dads in their classrooms.

Until I can hold my girlfriend's hand without feeling like we are in danger.

Until people can send out a “save the date” card knowing their parents will be there.

We need a pride festival because for one day, at least one day, we deserve to feel proud.