One might say that I was a late bloomer. I was nearly 22 before I came to terms with my sexuality and my identity. I left my hometown and moved to the “big smoke” of Darwin with the intention of living my life in the open as a young gay man. No more secrets and no more hiding. I was going to be out and proud.
Loving boldly and out was relatively easy in a city that as a rule did not really give a damn about who you slept with or how you dressed. But living “proud” had me stumped. How do I do that? My experience with LGBTQIA culture was extremely limited. So limited in fact that my only exposure had been drinking cocktails in a friends living room while dancing to Kylie Minogue’s “Fever” album on repeat and sneaking over to another friends house to watch Queer as Folk on SBS with the volume down low so nobody could hear. Extremely limited education. But I learned as I grew and my definition of Pride both as an intrinsic element and an event grew and changed as I went along in my life journey. Each new person I met within our rainbow family added to the growth and my perception of self and of pride.
Recently I was looking back over my friends list on Facebook and was happy to notice that I had amassed a broad and multifaceted collection of individuals that I am happy to call my family. They encompassed all the colours of our rainbow. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans, Queers and allies each with their own stories and identities. I wanted to know what their idea of Pride meant to them, so I sent out a message to many of them asking just three things:
- What does Pride mean to you personally?
- What are you most proud of?
- Are there any other points you would like to make?
The responses I got back were as varied as the characters of whom I asked. Positive, negative, humorous, heartfelt, insensitive and insightful. All were honest and I would not have expected anything less. As I read through their responses, I noticed a few common topics which I thought I would compile here.
Pride means acknowledging and honouring those who came before us. Those who lived, loved and danced in defiance of the world. Those who literally fought, bled and died for our rights and freedom to be and love who we choose to without fear.
Pride means accepting and loving who you are as a human being, warts and all, regardless of societal views and interference. It is loving your chosen family and finding your tribe. No matter who you are, no matter what your kinks or quirks you can guarantee that there is a niche for you within the community. No matter how many of your hobbies and passions may be at odds with each other there is always a group that will accept you as you are.
The people I spoke to said they are most proud of finally accepting their true selves, their identities and celebrating each other, encouraging each other’s growth and helping grow the rainbow family for the next generation. They are proud of the work that previous generations have done that allow some of the following:
- An interracial lesbian couple could get married and foster children.
- A gay boy from country Queensland can grow up to become a headlining Drag performer in London and Europe and walk down the street with his head held high in full gala without fear.
- A young gay man can escape from religious persecution and be supported and become a mentor to help save and support other young gays and lesbians.
The examples are countless. Our community draws its strength from each other. That strength helps give us passion, from that passion comes power and from that power comes our pride. We celebrate each other regardless of whether we know each other personally, we help lift each other up because we have all been down at some point. Our experiences give us the strength to love openly and freely, this is the source of our pride as a community.
Many of my older friends and family reflected that they were most proud of pulling together in the 80s, 90s and beyond to help foster activities that are now deemed completely normal. Such as establishing Gay bars, drag pageants, shows and collaborations that have helped define who cities and kick start many a career in the entertainment industry.
The final question gave a chance for some sobering reflections about Pride and celebrating our visibility.
Many people who responded gave warnings against complacency and the politicization of our culture and identities. While we have grown in leaps and bounds the victories are handed out to some more than others which can’t be allowed to be used as a lever to separate us. Women and lesbians are more widely accepted than gay men. Gays have been acknowledged more than bisexuals, who are in turn accepted more readily than the trans, gender fluid and non-conforming members of our family. The respondents warned that until we are ALL accepted at 100% then it is still hollow victories and if they come with provisions to maintain the status quo then they aren’t really victories at all. To summarise this, I guess we can say that while we have given blood, sweat and tears to demand our acknowledgment in mainstream society there is still a long way to go and the battle is not over yet.
Draw your strength from a community that loves and celebrates you, your identity and your contribution to its growth. Then funnel that strength into helping build us up further. Take pride in our achievements and take pride in the knowledge that the next generation will continue to grow, push, and fight uphill to build upon the back of our works as we have built on the shoulders of those who have come before us.
Written by Max Duncan
Max was born and raised in remote NT in the 80s. He is passionate about mental health support and suicide prevention. He is also a regular volunteer and contributor to NGOs wherever possible.
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