Celebrating from home
By Lucy Straubel
Growing up gay, I certainly faced my share of troubles. I struggled with my identity when I was young, and I did not really feel like I knew who I was until my junior year of high school, when I came out two years ago.
No, I was not suddenly a “walking Pride parade,” but I also was not shy to be true to myself. Being proudly “out” in high school was far from easy, though—high schoolers throw around slurs and gay jokes seemingly all the time, but these words feel worse when they are aimed at you. So I grew thick skin; with time, the comments did not hurt me.
Still, my sexuality often made me feel alone, since it felt like no one around me could relate. But my school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)—formed with only about 10 students in the fall of 2017, the begnning of my sophmore year—became my safe haven. I joined when I was still closeted, but being part of such a supportive group made me realize that I did not have to be afraid to come out.
Being surrounded by people like me, people who were supportive, was such a nice change from what I had experienced previously. The GSA made it a goal to educate teachers and students about preferred pronouns, politically correct names, and how to create a safe place for an LGBTQ kid, just to name a few.
For me, just seeing change being talked about meant a lot—the GSA made me feel like I belonged.
This brings me back to the concept of Pride parades. For those readers who are not familiar with the term, Pride is the month-long celebration that happens in June for members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community; there is significant history behind what is now seen as a very colorful and joyful event.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, eight police officers raided The Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City. Police raids were not uncommon back then, and many bar patrons were often arrested simply for being gay. Sick of the raids and being mistreated, Marsha P. Johnson threw a shot glass at a mirror, causing the other patrons—and even neighboring bars—to join the fight against the police oppression. The protest lasted six days.
The following year, many cities held celebrations in memory of the Stonewall riots. Los Angeles and San Francisco had “Gay Freedom Marches,” while Chicago had a “Gay Pride Week,” according to Forbes. The marches grew and grew, going through many names, before settling simply on “Gay Pride.”
Nowadays, June is known as Gay Pride month. There are often many celebrations throughout the month—most notably the parades—which happen in most major cities, and even some not-so-major cities.
Every city does something different, but there is always a march.
I attended my first ever Pride march last June—which also happened to be the 50th anniversary of Stonewall—in Traverse City. The Pride parade, for me, was much like the GSA: I was surrounded by people like me. People who experienced the same experiences I did, who understood me, who loved like me. It was the most visible and valid that I had felt in years. I was closeted for a long time before I came out, and being at the Pride parade really helped to solidify that I should be proud to be myself.
I have been fortunate to have such a supportive family, and I know that many of my peers have it much worse, but during Pride parades, it does not matter—it does not matter your background, your sexuality, your age. Everyone is in it together. People are there to celebrate having the courage to be themselves.
The Pride march gives me courage. It lets me forget every nasty name that I have ever been called, every slur thrown in my direction, every dirty look. Pride lets me celebrate me.
Unfortunately, there will be no Pride march this year in Traverse City, due to COVID-19 and necessary social-distancing actions to keep everyone safe. However, there are still ways that people are celebrating.
Up North Pride is the regional organization in charge of scheduling and hosting many Pride events in Northern Michigan. They aim to create a community where “LGBTQ+ members are visible, celebrated, and supported.” They provide education and other resources to help “foster inclusive places.”
June is a month of love. The month where everyone can focus on love and forget all of the hate that they have encountered. From GSA to the Pride parade, I am so happy that I had the courage to start living as myself.
Pride month might be different this year, but the love and happiness that comes with it is stronger than ever.
Lucy Straubel is a recent graduate from Benzie Central High School. She plans to attend Michigan Tech University in the fall. Want to learn more about Up North Pride? Check out UpNorthPride.com to learn how the non-profit is helping people to celebrate from home in 2020. And/or head to the My Secret Stash boutique on Cass Street in downtown Traverse City to buy an Up North Pride sign for $20 to show your support for the LGBTQ community during the month of June from your front yard.
Photo Caption: Lucy Straubel sits between two signs in her front yard—one celebrates her recent graduation from Benzie Central High School, while the other celebrates Pride month, though both physical events were canceled this spring due to COVID-19. (NOTE: After publication, BCHS graduation was rescheduled at Crystal Mountain resort.) Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.