Dear Uniting Pride Community,
The start of this year’s June Pride Month was a hopeful one for me, but my heart quickly turned as things unfolded around us. Homophobia and transphobia is nothing new, of course. Their existence is why we still need to celebrate Pride. But there’s definitely been a shift of late. Aggression is ramping up at a rapid pace and while it’s disheartening enough to read about things happening in Texas, or Florida, or Idaho, we are also facing a newly revitalized anti-LGBTQ+ movement here in East Central Illinois.
This most recent upsurge started with some community leaders trying to get people to protest Tolono Public Library’s Pride book display. Then we had people messaging Rose Bowl Tavern with some terrible things to say about them hosting our Pride Party. And then we heard our friends at the Tuscola GSA Booster Club are having their all ages Drag Show Fundraiser threatened with protests and disruption. And finally we’re seeing online posts of people trying to do the same thing to our Drag Story Time event at the Literary taking place later this month.
Anger and fear is being stoked with renewed vigor, and directed squarely at us. It’s scary, friends. CNN is calling it the “Rainbow Scare”.
I’m old enough to remember when “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” was the main chant at LGBTQ+ marches and rallies. And then I remember when that started to feel antiquated and perhaps even irrelevant because we felt like we’d won that battle. Our mere existence was accepted. We could check that off the To Do List. And we could move on to deeper struggles of equity and anti-discrimination.
Sadly, it’s feeling like that chant is becoming all too relevant again. And I’m heartbroken.
But I’m also ready.
Having been here before means we know this terrain. And we know what it takes to be louder than the hateful voices in the room. We will love and celebrate and honor and treasure this queer family of ours with everything we have inside us, and that light will absolutely overpower the bigotry and violence. Love wins. Because of course it does.
So keep your heads up, folks. Walk with Pride. Live with Pride. Revel in your Pride. And know you have a community around you who’s got your back.
Nicole Frydman is the director of operations for the Uniting Pride Center for Champaign County.