June is traditionally known as “Gay Pride Month,” and later this month, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will make it official when he issues a proclamation declaring June as LGBT Pride Month.
What does “gay pride” mean in 2014?
In a quest to explore that question, I sent my three gay nephews (ages 15-24) this message: “I’m working on an article, and needed a youthful opinion…please answer this question for me. What does ‘gay pride’ mean to you?
At least I thought I sent that message to my nephews! A few hours later I received an email from Kevin Short at Mid-South Audio: “Murray, I’m not sure I qualify for “youthful.”
Oops! Wrong Kevin!
My youngest nephew was the first to respond. “Not letting anyone sway your opinion of love,” he said, “just because of their ignorance.”
Right to the heart of the matter! That which takes many of us years to learn! Love is the key. Love is always the key! Taking pride in ourselves—in who we are as human beings—begins with loving ourselves. Loving ourselves and loving one another are intrinsically connected. Loving ourselves makes it possible for us to love others.
Looking back over the history of the modern gay rights movement, we are witnesses to incredible acts of bravery as individuals and organizations began to make themselves visible in a world that would have preferred for them to stay tightly closed up in a closet.
Progress has been made because one by one, LGBT people have opened that closed door and stepped out into the full light of the outside world. It is impossible to be a healthy, loving, fully realized human being while living a life buried in the darkness of a closet. It makes us soul sick, and soul sick makes us body and mind sick.
Coming out, therefore, is a life and death matter, and it is something that plays out over and over again throughout our lives. Straight people do not have to identify their sexuality every time they are put in a new situation or meet new people. We do. Even in these times of rapidly changing attitudes, when we introduce our “husbands” or “spouses” we are coming out all over again. It is an act of pride—and act made possible by love—and an act that changes the world around us.
June is Gay Pride Month because the Stonewall Riots in New York City took place on June 28, 1969. It was an act that has come to represent the collective coming out of an entire generation. In that moment a mass healing was begun: a healing that continues today in every single act of coming out, and in every moment when we refuse to be wounded by the hateful words of our enemies.
“For me, it’s just being proud of who you are and where you come from and accepting yourself.” My nephew Drew emailed to me. “It’s about not letting negative views or ideas give you a poor sense of self or make you feel ashamed. When I think of it, it’s a lot more of a personal thing than I think it might be for others. I don’t immediately go to the whole ‘gay pride parade’, out there, look at this, accept us viewpoint. Gay pride is just pride—pride in yourself and acceptance of yourself. To me, it’s not about how others see me, or other LGBT people, but about how I see me.”
Giving our young people the means to see themselves with love and to be proud of themselves for who they are has always been one of the reasons we started CAMP Rehoboth in the first place. I have been blessed over the years to come from a loving and supportive family—and a good thing, too, as we seem to have exceptionally powerful gay genes—and recreating that positive viewpoint within our community was, and still is, the foundation upon which we built this organization.
In many places in the world, huge progress has been made in the area of LGBT rights. That’s not true everywhere—even in our own country. Every time we read anti-gay stories in the news, we are subjected to language that does its best to intimidate us, to belittle us, and to frighten us into returning to the closet. Even those of us who are confident in who we are, have to expend energy to protect our hearts and souls from the harsh words directed at us. For young people just discovering who they are, the words can lead to alienation and even suicide.
Hearing my nephews talk about love and pride makes me happy that a place like CAMP Rehoboth exists. I am filled with pride at their words, and I am filled with joy at their presence in my life. I am more than ever convinced that celebrating the worth of the LGBT community is the core advocacy message of CAMP Rehoboth. We are here to create a positive home for us all—in whatever form that takes in our lives. In places where gay voices are silent, the only words being preached are those of condemnation.
I am, if the truth be known, still a little giddy from the progress we have made in Delaware with marriage equality. When I speak of “my husband” something settles in my soul, and I am joyful in ways I never thought I would experience when I was my nephews’ ages. The world is changing. The world is changing because of us—because of all of us—and all the organizations, families, and individuals working to make sure that love wins out in the end.
It always comes back to love, which is precisely why the CAMP Rehoboth logo is a house with a heart in it.
The cover photo on this issue of Letters is my 15 year old nephew Max. He came out when he was 13, and I admire him greatly. I tried to get his brother and cousin to wear the rainbow sunglasses from Proud Books, as well, but they rolled their eyes, and looked at me like I was insane. I love them all dearly—and equally so their straight siblings and cousins—each and every one of them works to make this world a more accepting place for LGBT people of all ages. How could I not be filled with pride…and joy!
Happy Pride Month! May all its days be filled with love and joy!
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.