“Pride” was my high school’s motto – my Catholic, Church-on-Tuesdays, I-wore-plaid-and-knee-socks-for-14-years school. For years I heard mostly white, mostly rich, and mostly conservative people chant the word in huddles or from bleachers. We were to be proud of our religion, our commitment to God in the face of adversity.
Gay Pride celebrations let me reclaim the motto of the system that taught me gay people were being challenged by God, that they shouldn’t act on their desires, that I should hate the sin but embrace the sinner. While my own family and some members of my community taught me to love indiscriminately, we were not the majority.
Celebrating Pride in the U.S. is a bold social and political statement. It’s typically only individuals that participate or organizations devoted to gay rights. In Ireland, though, everyone participated, businesses decorating in rainbow colors with no fear of falling sales and outrage.
Bookstores displayed the latest releases on rainbow flags. Restaurants hung bunting and triangular flags from their railings. Dress shops arranged gowns in rainbow order.
Celebrating Gay Pride wasn’t a statement in Dublin, it was typical. I’m sure not all of these businesses had gay owners, but they were willing to join in the joy of gay culture. Even if they didn’t identify as LGBTQA, they weren’t fighting against their rights.
I felt embraced and accepted in Dublin, even though I was clearly a foreigner, new to the city. Walking around the city before the parade, heart stickers and rainbows on my face, I never felt judged or unsafe, even in light of the Orlando shooting that just occurred in my home country.
In the U.S., there are protests to Pride Parades; people widely unaffected by gay rights feel the need to question them, but no one here did that, they just supported.
Truly, the difference isn’t all that surprising, given Pride’s origins. Gay Pride celebrations usually happen in June to honor the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York City in 1969. As police dragged people out of the bar, heading towards jail, and pulled out weapons, LGBT members decided enough was enough. A year later, on June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride Parade occurred. As an American, it doesn’t shock me that the world-wide catalyst for Gay Pride events happened in the United States.
Here’s to hoping that the next Pride I join in the U.S. will remind me a little more of Dublin and a little less of Stonewall.