Olivia Turano: Pride is more than a parade

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 6:07pm

It’s June and anyone in or around the LGBTQ+ community knows that it is Pride Month. Our social media feeds, Uber apps and college campuses become more rainbow-colored and we hear a bit more from our favorite queer celebrities, politicians and friends.

But Pride is about more than retweeting a few Pride-related tweets and stories. It’s about more than ordering a pair of rainbow spandex and a sports bra for Pride and posing with your queer friend. It’s even about more than supporting your LGBTQ+ friends.

Please don’t get me wrong. We appreciate your support. But being an ally is about more than going to a Pride parade once a year. Your participation in Pride shouldn’t be confined only to June; Pride is for every month. It’s about recognizing what continues to hold back the LGBTQ+ community and helping to mitigate those problems.

Chosen to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots, this month celebrates the incredible resilience, determination, diversity and of course pride of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride celebrates where the community is today, but even more so it honors the sacrifice and dedication of those who preceded us and have paved the way for the rights we now have. Pride month is intended to set aside time for everyone — not just LGBTQ+ people — to reflect on history and celebrate progress. It is about recognizing that, despite accomplishments the community has made, there are still important strides to be taken.

It’s easy to forget that much of the progress the LGBTQ+ community has achieved has been extremely recent. Attitudes on same-sex marriage shifted at unprecedented rates in America with increased visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals in social and celebrity circles. In 2004, only 31 percent of Americans supported gay marriage. By 2017, public support skyrocketed to 62 percent (it dropped down to 61 percent in 2019, representing the first decrease in public support since 2009).

Furthermore, public opinion among college students and the rest of the country — specifically older, rural and conservative Americans — differs drastically, as perceptions of queer normalization and acceptance skew liberally in places like Ann Arbor. The acceptance we see in our day-to-day lives as students is uncharacteristic of the rest of the country. As of 2019, only 44 percent of Republicans support gay marriage (up from 19 percent in 2004, but down from 47 percent in 2017). Even among Democrats, only 75 percent favor gay marriage (up from 43 percent from 2004, and down from 76 percent in 2017, following the pattern of slightly declining support in recent years). Broadly speaking, support for LGBTQ+ individuals is stronger in urban areas, but falls behind in rural areas.

Ann Arbor is wonderfully accepting of members of the LGBTQ+ community, earning an 100 on the Municipal Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign’s review and subsequent rating of a city’s municipal laws, policies and services for LGBTQ+ residents. Living in a place like Ann Arbor, discrimination feels far removed from our lives, with the blame often falling wholly on the far-right. But it’s definitely not just about the radical conservatives we read about. In fact, the average score for the nation is 55 and the average score for Michigan is still only 69. Concerns about the highly concentrated population of liberal wealthy academics in Ann Arbor are entirely valid. However, communities where non-heteronormative lifestyles are normalized and respected, and where members of the LGBTQ+ community can live and work free of discrimination, are not actually so common, even in 2019. 

The majority of states still do not have protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, public accommodation and housing. Many states protect religious freedom over sexual identity, legally allowing refusal of service based on religious beliefs against homosexuality. Transphobia continues to thrive in America, especially with the recent onslaught of transphobic policy from the Trump administration.

Don’t stop posting your Instagram stories. Don’t stop retweeting the ACLU. Don’t stop going to Pride. But if you do, don’t stop when June ends. Educate yourself on the issues that impact LGBTQ+ Americans. Support your queer friends — beyond just posting pictures with them at a parade one Sunday a year. Learn about their experiences with discrimination. Go beyond vocally supporting queer lifestyles: make an active effort to normalize them. Identify your pronouns. If you can, donate to organizations that support LGBTQ+ rights. Organizations like the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood are great, but there are a plethora of organizations that do terrific work. And please, tell your local frat bro to stop saying, “That’s gay,” because it’s not 2007 anymore.

Olivia Turano can be reached at turanoo@umich.edu