Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pride of Baltimore: This is Our Time

By Steve Charing
Senior Political Analyst

Another year has gone by where our community has been under attack by the religious right and by those politicians who are owned by these bigots. Another year of enduring the diatribes denouncing lgbt folks as second-class citizens worthy of discrimination has passed. President Bush and his GOP cohorts in Congress are again pushing a divisive Constitutional amendment to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.

Massachusetts remains the only state in the U.S. where same-sex marriage is legal. Openly gay and lesbian members of the armed forces still cannot serve their country although convicted criminals can. And members of the same sex cannot hold hands in public lest they get harassed, beat up or more. We continue to be verbally and physically bludgeoned for being who we are.

Many of us are angered; many simply do not care. But our spirits will not be shaken. For it is June—Pride month—and now it’s our time to stand up and be heard as one: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, black, white, Latino, Asian, old, young, single, coupled, rich, poor, activist, apathetic, you name it. This is our time, and we will celebrate.

And we will do so right here in Baltimore.

A large majority of the people who will be watching and participating in the parade up Charles Street, jamming Eager Street and Charles for the traditional block party (June 17), and/or attending the festival at Druid Park (June 18) were born after 1969 when the Stonewall riots took place.

That historic movement-altering weekend in late June to which most gays all over the world credit as the start of the modern gay rights movement began as another intrusive police raid of the Stonewall Inn—a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. The forceful resistance by the bar’s patrons, consisting largely of drag queens, sparked a small riot outside the establishment over the weekend and sent the message that "enough was enough."

The uprising received little notice initially, but then word of the incident spread rapidly in New York and other gay conclaves throughout the U.S. Starting in 1970 and continuing today, the celebration of this uprising had sprung up in hundreds of cities and towns globally. Even an attempt to march, albeit thwarted by police and right wing opposition, was launched in Moscow recently.

But these younger people today who were not around for this epic event or are shamefully unaware of it, probably have not experienced the trauma of a police raid and its arrests or at least the fear of such an incident.

Nonetheless, despite not knowing the basis of Pride celebrations or the rationale, these folks will still show up at the block party and parade and bring their dogs, partners, friends, or just themselves to the festival in the park. Rainbows, balloons and confetti will abound, as will food, beverages, books, jewelry, literature from myriad lgbt and supportive organizations, music and camaraderie. They will party and run into old friends and make new ones, perhaps oblivious to the symbolic significance of the occasion.

And that is just fine, because this is our time.

Regardless of our ages, gender, race, interests, agendas, or even fetishes, this community can rightly celebrate pride in ourselves. We are who we are, and we shall continue to live our lives the way they were meant to be and not pretend to be somebody else. We should be proud of our own individual accomplishments and what our community has achieved over the years. We will be ourselves this glorious weekend, undeterred by what others may think.

Let’s come out and show our pride. Let’s understand the meaning of the events. And let’s enjoy ourselves. Happy Pride, Baltimore! This is our time.

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