Why Pride Isn't Just For June
By MADELINE ENGLISH, TEXAS STATE '23, 06/07/2021
Hello and welcome to Coffee Talks! This is a section where we drink coffee together, while staying apart, and talk about things. Today, I am drinking some homemade CS cold brew with a little bit of caramel almond milk creamer. Today, I am also reflecting upon last June and how I feel like I didn’t really get to celebrate Pride. Pride is an important event for me and my family because we always go out to the festivals and parades. However, due to COVID-19, all of our Pride festivities were put on hold last year. It was hard and made June feel isolating and hard to celebrate. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not full of love and support for my community. So, today, I will tell you my personal coming out story and things that make me want to celebrate Pride all year long. I hope you will join me with your own cup of coffee and relive these events with an open heart.
When I was just 13 years old, I came out of the closet while living in South Texas and had no idea how it would affect my life, if at all. I had been wrestling with when and where to tell my parents and every time I thought about it, my heart would race and my eyes would fill with tears. I had told a few good friends, all of whom had no problems. Everyone was okay with this news that had been weighing on me for a very long time. I knew that the next step was to tell my parents exactly who I was. I remember the day that it happened so vividly because I feel that is the day I was able to begin the next chapter of my life as truthfully and as open as I wanted. It was New Year’s Eve 2014 and I was in 8th grade. I went to Kaffie Middle School, an old building tucked into a neighborhood, in Corpus Christi, Texas. I played basketball on the Girls’ B Team, ran cross country and track, and swam on the swim team. I was in the choir and had been for at least a year at that point. I had a good set of friends and I still talk to those girls to this day. On December 31st, 2014, my friend, Dannielle, and I were sitting at the kitchen counter, talking with my mother about how excited we were to be done with middle school. We had talked about how we had our gym period as our first period of the day and we were complaining about how we got sweaty and felt gross throughout the day. My mother laughed and joked, “What boys are you trying to smell good for?”, Dannielle burst into laughter because she knew there wasn’t a boy I was trying to smell good for. If anything, I wanted to smell good for myself! My mother, noticing her laughter and my subsequent nervous laughing and wide eyes, asked why we were laughing and asked if there were any boys that we liked. I remember thinking that this was the best chance I would get where it would come up somewhat naturally. I got up, walked across the kitchen, and whispered, “I think I’m gay,” in my mother’s ear. She looked at me and said, “Okay. Do you want me to tell Dad?” I told her yes and we hugged. Dannielle and I went to her grandparents house for a New Year’s Eve party and I panicked about what I had done. When I came home, my parents and I sat on their bed and we talked about what this meant. I cried for a lot of it. They assured me that everything was okay and they would support me, no matter what. That was it, that was my whole story. Over the next few months, I came out to more friends and family members and never received a word of hate or confusion. To this day, I consider myself to be extremely lucky in that department as there are thousands of homeless Queer youth who have been turned away by their friends and families.
On June 26th, 2015, I woke up to a bunch of texts from friends and families. All of them with the same message in them: Same-sex marriage had been legalized within the United States of America. I didn’t believe it. I laid in bed and scrolled through the news and sure enough, there it was. I walked downstairs to tell my parents but found that my mom was running errands and my dad was at work. I turned on the news and watched as thousands of people proudly kissed their partners and waved the rainbow flag in front of cameras and bystanders. The memory I will carry for the rest of my life, the thing I remember the most about that day, was my mom calling me from the local HEB to ask me if I had seen the news and to tell me congratulations. I cried in the same kitchen I had come out to her in, barely six months prior. I went to my first Pride festival that same summer, my mom, sister, and I drove 2 ½ hours from Corpus to San Antonio. It was so hot and so foreign but I felt so safe and so supported. I wanted to do this every single year for the rest of my life.
My mom, my little sister, Elizabeth, and I at San Antonio Pride in 2015
On June 12th, 2016, 49 people were killed inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I remember my mom waking me up and asking me if I had seen the news. I was mortified. My heart hurts and it still hurts when I think about that day. I had friends beg me to skip Pride festivals that year in order to protect myself. I was barely 15 at this point. My parents helped me process what had happened and told me that I couldn’t let fear control my life. I went to my 2nd Pride that year and signed a card meant for the Pulse survivors who were still recovering. Pulse will always be a part of my story because it defined my activism and helped me to see what I needed to do. There isn’t a June that goes by that I don’t think about those lives we lost.
In June of 2017, I got into contact with one of the art teachers from my high school in order to form a Gay-Straight Alliance to protect our Queer students. September 1st, 2017, we had our first GSA meeting in room C110. There were 5 people there, including me. We did history lessons and allowed our students to share their own stories. Thursdays became a safe place for me and a handful of other Queer kids who believed they were the only one who felt the things they did. We got more of a following and more people started showing up to the meetings. On September 7th, 2018, we had our second first meeting of the school year. There were over 40 students, faculty, and staff who attended. GSA is still flourishing to this day and consistently provides resources for those who need them the most.
First GSA meeting in 2017
My story is one of millions. I am now 19 years old and laugh when I think about coming out so young. I’m so lucky and grateful for my supportive friends, family, and community. However, none of what I have been able to do would have been possible without generations worth of work. Once you get into Queer history, you realize just how prevalent we have always been. There has never been a world without Queer people and there never will be. When we begin to look at what our parents and siblings have done for us, it becomes so much more apparent what we need to do for our children and siblings. We have been able to accomplish so much in the past few decades. Marriage equality, protection laws, representation in media, the ability to be open and to have safe spaces. Once, these were only dreams. However, there is so much more that needs to be done. Transgender women of color are being murdered every day, conversion therapy is ravaging our youth and it’s still legal in 29 states, there are Queer people all around the world who are being tortured or forced into modern day concentration camps. I will attach resources at the end of this article for people who are interested in learning more about how to protect our youth.
This is why Pride is not just for June. June is a month in which thousands of historic events took place and it is important to realize and celebrate those. However, my queerness should not be elevated only during June. Companies turn back to their regular logos, rainbow items go on sale, we pick up the glitter, and the world forgets until next June. Yet, I do not become straight on July 1st and I do not lose my sense of Pride. I do not forget about my trans sisters of color who are being targeted, I do not ignore our homeless youth, I do not allow myself to become blind. We have fought tooth and nail to be where we are and now, we are at the bottom of another summit. Queer people deserve to be seen and celebrated 365 days a year. Because for so long we were not and for so long we were arrested, harassed, and killed for doing so.
From left to right, Marsha P. Johnson, her boyfriend, Joseph Ratanski, and Sylvia Rivera in 1973 (Image: Gary LeGault / Wikipedia Commons)
Pride is a celebration of being who you are, who you’ve always been. You are surrounded by people who have had similar experiences, similar stories, and similar attitudes. You are with people who understand not just the big things, like coming out, but the little things too, like how do I find a safe gay club? Pride is full of color and life and love and history and support. There are families, both blood and found, there are couples, there are drag queens, there are resources, and there is some of the most fabulous music you have ever heard. Why wouldn’t we want to have this spirit all year long?
Resources for Queer Youth, compiled by Madeline:
The Trevor Project is a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to Queer youth: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/
Information for Queer youth on sexual activity, substance use, mental health, discrimination, and violence: HealthyChildren.org: Health Concerns for Gay and Lesbian teensexternal icon
The It Gets Better Project inspires people across the globe to share their stories and remind the next generation of Queer youth that hope is out there: It Gets Better Projectexternal icon
The Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation together serve as America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality. This link is to shed light on the dangers of conversion therapy and to educate others on how prevalent it is: https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy
The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN): Student Action
GLSEN believes that every student has the right to a safe, supportive, and LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 education and helps create GSA’s across the country: Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN): Student Actionexternal icon
Accurate information for those who want to better understand sexual orientation: American Psychological Association: Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityexternal icon
Here is a masterlist of a ton of resources you can find: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm