June is traditionally a very special month in the LGBTQ community. The choice of June to celebrate LGBT pride is due to the fact that it was 50 years ago that LGBTQ's fought back in a New York city bar called the Stonewall. The Stonewall Riots are known as the 'birth' of the modern day LGBT rights movement.
Yes, if we go back 50 years, I can tell you it was quite the 'hostile environment' for LGBTQ's. I was eight, by the way. It would still be a decade before I went into a gay bar. Adults in the 1960's couldn't go into a public or private bar and be themselves, hence the setting of the riots. Back 50 years ago, police routinely stormed gay bars (or went undercover and set up bar clients) and made arrests. As people partied, the police picked on them, just because they were gay (or trans). Terms like transgender didn't even exist back then.
For those of you under the age of 30, you just can't imagine. But I want you to thank your LGBT elders for the freedom you enjoy just to be today.
I was fortunate enough to be a young adult in the 1980's and 1990's, when visiting a gay bar was much safer. However, gay bars, especially lesbian ones, were notoriously in the most dangerous parts of town and often didn't stay open long, even in my youth (even today for that matter). I'll never forget the night I went to Mitchell's, a lesbian bar next to some projects in Baltimore when the group of us were shot at going into the bar. A friend once showed me bullet holes in her car, which was accidentally shot while she sat in that same bar.
I don't think straight people could understand why we would continue to put our safety at risk. Because it was one of the only places in town you could go and be yourself.
In other ways the 1980's and 1990's were still not a great time, as most of us were living a double life or, staying in the closet personally and professionally. However, it sure beat the hostile environment of the 1960's.
I also want to make note of issues like courage and self esteem and real love. All of these are a part of gay pride. It takes courage in today's world to be your most authentic and loving self. It took even more of those back then. I know that much of who I am today is the result of my having the courage to be me, and this never ends in this life. LGBTQ's are often said to have a special level of character and compassion due to them having been so challenged.
Let's not forget the (approximate) words presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said recently, which I resonate with: "Not fitting in teaches you to become compassionate". I really liked that line.
What comes first? Self esteem, courage or love? I'm not sure, but I do know...
That the most important of all is love. The love I am speaking of is not romance. It is the love that all of us must cultivate more of in our lives, if we are to make this a better world. There are lots of 'good fights' to come - climate change, income inequality, separation of church and state, the rising of a more loving spirituality - and you need to be ready to fight them.
Love always wins...
Happy pride, happy you, happy us...