Sunday, August 22, 2010

PRIDE: DOES IT HOLD NEW MEANING?

The year was 1969- a year that’s forever frozen in LGBT history worldwide. The location was Greenwich Village, New York City. It was a hot summer night in June when we came out of the “closets” and stood against the corruption of the police and said we were not going to hide anymore. Windows were smashed, trash cans were burned, people were beaten and arrested, but that didn’t stop the now called “pioneers” of our community from getting their voices heard. These radical days mark a time period when anger and frustration lead us one step closer to our freedom- the freedom to be who we are today.


It’s a shame that I was not around at that time, but I am fortunate enough to know some of the gentlemen who were front and center of the Stonewall Riots. To hear them speak so passionately of their eye witness accounts today is such a treasure for me because I know if I was there I would be right beside them. It’s been forty years since the first Gay PRIDE Parade was held and I had wondered if my generation has become complacent and forgotten what so many of our brothers and sisters before us had to go through to allow us to parade around city streets in flashy rainbow colors and Speedos? Even more so, with my generation practicing riskier behaviors and taking HIV less seriously because of their “treatable-with-one-pill-a-day” attitudes, have we lost all context of the word PRIDE?

I’ll admit when I was in my early twenties I used PRIDE as an excuse to party all day and to socialize. Back then, I was still getting comfortable with the idea that I was a gay male. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to hold a guy’s hand in public without hesitation. Then, as PRIDE’s have come and gone my own personal attitude of the holiday became stale to say the least- until this year’s PRIDE. This year was the first time I was going to celebrate the events being HIV positive. I worried for days prior as to whether I can truly have a good time or was my focus was going to be on my HIV status? Can I remember that I am still a gay man who would one day hope to see a world where we are treated as equals?

There was only one way to find out. That Sunday afternoon I got my PRIDE outfit together, which consisted of nothing more than a white beater, suspenders, and cut up denim shorts, and headed downtown to the Village to meet up with friends and watch Manhattan’s 2010 PRIDE parade. For those not familiar, this particular parade lasts for several hours. I took many pictures of various floats and spoke with many individuals all of which share different ideas of PRIDE. Many of the marchers held political signs explaining current corruptions of government’s treatment of the LGBT community. However, I couldn’t help but notice that there were just as many signs that pertained to the HIV and AIDS community. These leaders were creating awareness to all on the importance of issues regarding healthcare, prevention, HIV and Congress, etcetera. A couple of cocktails and introductions later it dawned on me that I was having a great time! I quickly realized that my definition of PRIDE has not changed because I have HIV. If anything, it has enhanced its’ validity and I felt welcomed again in my own world- a world that is no longer suitable for 1969, but for the present day LGBT community.

I am still new to the HIV community, relatively speaking, but PRIDE has reminded me of my passion for wanting to make a difference in both equality as well as the treatment of this chronic illness. I want the world to know that I am an openly gay male who is NOT a second class citizen. I want the world to know that I have HIV and there is no reason to fear me. I want the world to know that Washington’s plan to cut healthcare budgets for government programs (such as ADAP) is unacceptable and I refuse to have my voice go unheard. I want to the world to know that I plan to educate the generations to come how to take care of themselves and live healthy lives. But most of all, I want the world to know that I’m here.

The Stonewall Riots is a reminder that even though we celebrate forty years of being openly gay that there are still battles to be fought in 2010. With the help of my generation it is time for me to give back what was privileged to us back in 1969- the freedom to be ourselves no matter who we are.

1 comment:

  1. And You Christopher are an Inspiration!!! Live your Life and never stop wanting your Dream

    ReplyDelete