The LGBTQ movement grew, as all do, because it was necessary. Our Elders and 20th century ancestors were degraded, pathologized, systematically brainwashed to deny their own truth. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t be “discreet” were outcast, murdered, and institutionalized. The only safe option for so many was hiding, and we now know from a pile of research that living a shadow life of deception and shame slowly kills you.

Pride dawned from the dignity of our people. Pride was the flower of our convictions—the way I love is valid, my gender is worthy, the desires I have are honorable—and our connections with one another, our exes of exes networks, our mutual aid collectives, the organizing work of thousands. There is no one moment we started being proud. What we celebrate are the moments we started being visible.

The lives allowed for us prior to the 1970s were intolerable, and though visibility was dangerous, our only vehicle out of the abuse of our culture was collective power through individual vulnerability. We marched and lobbied and fought in the streets, but our most powerful tool has always been the simple truth. We came out, and it remade our world.

The roots of celebrating Pride as an event trace back to the first national-scale marches for Gay Liberation in June 1970, on the anniversary of our uprising against police violence at the Stonewall Inn the previous summer. 1969 was not LGBTQ peoples’ first resistance. It wasn’t even the first uprising.

But Stonewall was the match that lit the fire. Our movement has leapt forward at lightning speed, opening uneven but ever-increasing freedom to be ourselves. Laws and policies changed, language and polite sensibilities expanded, taboos dropped, stigma decreased for most of us. Pride marches have morphed into Pride parades. Each year now, some media outlet asks “Is Pride still necessary?”

Pride is necessary for our Elders, the people who walked us to a new day through torments we can barely recall. The speed of culture change around LGBTQ lives is dizzying, it’s difficult to keep perspective on where we came from. We are so fortunate that our history is still here, in the Elders sitting beside us with a grin and a story. Come join us at ElderPride! We’re hosting a virtual celebration this year on Saturday, June 19 – follow the Center’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chasebrexton.lgbt all day, or keep an eye on the Baltimore Pride Facebook page at www.facebook.com/baltimorepridecelebration at 3 p.m. that day!

Our people are survivors and more, we are resisters. The creativity to grow an authentic life when language has no word for your gender, when you’ve never even heard of another human being like you. The courage to flirt with a stranger or wink at a sweetheart when “sick” is the kindest word people use for your love. The families we built, the care network we have used for a century to keep one another safe and well.

These strengths are the unique legacy of our community, along with our humor, resourcefulness, compassion, and personal spark of fabulousness. Our stories are a treasury of hope and resilience, a source we all rely on to fuel our freedom. Until prejudice and discrimination diminish to undetectable for all our peoples, we will need to annually charge up our conviction and connection again. Come to ElderPride and pay your respects.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Pride movement, and its relevance today, I’ll be hosting our next ElderPride Connection, a virtual session scheduled for Thursday, June 10 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. To find out more about the session and how to join us, go to http://www.chasebrexton.org/ElderPrideConnectionJune2021.

For more about ElderPride, click here.

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