The Current State of Pride

Painting of rainbow pride flag
Photo by Steve Johnson on

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a month to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, highlight the community’s triumphs, and acknowledge current challenges. As a Queer person, the month encourages me to reflect on my journey through the Gay experience. I think about my partner, whom I owe everything for his love and support. I think about my first Pride, in 2010, the first time I saw thousands of people who looked just like me, crammed into the warm Halsted Street in late June. I think about my first night out at Five Nightclub in Madison. I think back to when I first came out, a beautiful and terrifying time period. I came out in 2009 while I was in high school. I certainly experienced resistance from my family, friends, teachers, and the general public. 12 years, and several apartments later, I still experience the resistance in many situations. Some resistance is external, meaning that is produced by others. Some resistance is internal, produced by my own internalized homophobia. Never-the-less, I have embraced my sexuality and other Queer identities, which required sustained effort every day.

Alongside myself, the number of “out” LGBTQ+ individuals continue to grow. The process of “coming out” occurs when a person announces their gender or sexual identities to others. Recently, singer Demi Lovato came out as non-binary on Twitter, and switched to using They/Them pronouns. Lovato joins a large group of out LGBTQ+ celebrities, including Grammy-winning rapper Lil Nas X, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Federal Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. LGBTQ+ attitudes are improving for ordinary folks, too. A study recently published in the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity Journal found that most Gay and Bisexual teenage boys are out to their parents.

Our community continues to grow as more of us come out. A 2021 Gallup poll estimates that 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBTQ+, up from 4.5% in 2017. Much of the growth originates from the younger Queer people in our community. Gallup says, “One of the main reasons LGBT identification has been increasing over time is that younger generations are far more likely to consider themselves to be something other than heterosexual. This includes about one in six (16%) adult members of Generation Z (those aged 18 to 23 in 2020).” I am 26 years old, so I exist in-between Gen Z and Millennial, experiencing both sides of the generation shift. My Queer experience is very Gen Z. I was able to come out in high school. My parents support my partner and I with their modern viewpoints. I am out at work. I am also Male Non-Binary, and occasionally go out into the world with a full face of makeup and feminine attire. I couldn’t imagine a world in which I conceal my sexuality and gender regularly. Not everyone lives in the same world as I. I have met many older Queer people, from Millennial to Boomer and beyond. Most of them have a different coming out experience. Some are still not out at work or to their families. Coming out is a very personal decision. Not everyone has the wherewithal to be out, because it is still very difficult to be Queer in 2021.

LGBTQ+ individuals often lose family members and friends when they come out, putting them at risk for increased isolation. The risk for isolation grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many LGBTQ+ people turned to social media to find companionship during the pandemic, but social media is not always welcoming for this community. A recent report from GLAAD found 64% of LGBTQ+ people have experience harassment on social media, the most of any other sub-population studied. COVID-19 isolation is especially prevalent for LGBTQ+ older adults. In addition, many LGBTQ+ youth and young adults were forced to stay home with their families during the pandemic. Only 1 in 3 report their home to be affirming of their LGBTQ+ identity according to a study by the Trevor Project. Many faith-based organizations chastise LGBTQ+ people and support Gay conversion therapy. Many businesses refuse serve to LGBTQ+ patrons. Many social service organizations, such as Catholic Social Services, do not provide adoption and many other services to LGBTQ+ people. Internationally, it is still illegal to be Gay in more than 70 countries, which punishment ranging from fines, to imprisonment, to death. Even though I am out and proud, I still have my days where I want to hide in my shell. My partner and I don’t usually hold hands in public, because we don’t want to get hate-crimed (and sometimes, we still experience hate while walking down the street hands free). We have to be cautious when looking for a new apartment, seeking medical care, shopping for clothes and makeup, and going out to eat. Our families are not always supportive, and some family members refuse to talk to us.

One of the strongest predictors of positive attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people is having personal connections with other Queer people. Those who know Queer people in their families, at work, or in their neighborhoods, have much more positive attitudes toward them in general than those who do not know any at all. It’s exhausting to be the spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community. We Queer people are constantly explaining ourselves to those who have never had to explain their relationships or gender identity. As Peggy McIntosh explains in her famous essay on privilege, “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group,” the pressure to represent your community speaks to the minority experience. While this work is exhausting, we must persist. This looks different for each of us. Some will be loud and proud, covered in glitter while marching at Pride. Some will cheer from the sidelines. Some will skip pride altogether and celebrate their Queerness at home. Some will glance at hidden pictures and books, as they continue to process their identities. But one thing is universal, we will all love and support each other today and every day for being who we are. Happy Pride, y’all.

Need support? Want to lean more? Check out my list of LGBTQ+ resources below:

Minnesota LGBTQ+ Organizations

National LGBTQ+ Organizations

International LGBTQ+ Organizations

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