Today my town celebrated Pride with a parade and a celebration at one of the city’s most beautiful parks. Since this is my first year celebrating Pride after coming out, I have been looking forward to it for quite some time. As always, my son and I were joined by friends at Kingston’s parade. A few people who had heard my weekend plans were surprised I was so excited about this particular Pride celebrations. Some wondered why this year would be any different than last. Others accused me of trying to grab attention by celebration something that, according to them, really didn’t matter. After all, aren’t I typically in heteronormative relationships? Why should I broadcast my sexuality? Why should it mean so much for me to be out? I don’t see straight people making a big deal out of their sexuality, why should I be so excited about mine? These are all questions I’ve been posed and failed to answer in the heat of the moment. Why does it matter so much to me?
There are so many reasons that Pride matters to me, and to the community as a whole. It would be impossible to list them all. Here’s a pretty good (albeit personal) place to start:
Because when I was growing up, anyone who wasn’t straight was referred to as “those people” – in stark opposition to “us”, making me feel alienated from my community early on.
Because when I was arguing for gay marriage rights as a teenager, I frequently ran into opposition from people in my family, peer group, and school.
Because they would argue that a “civil arrangement” should be “just as good” as marriage, despite all of them being legally married, having decided non-legally binding civil arrangements to be ill-suited to or lacking in adequate commitment for their (straight) lifestyles.
Because in high school I was taught that homosexuality was a sin, and that those who identified as queer were mentally ill.
Because when I first wrote on social media that I was interested in girls, a beloved family member emailed me to encourage me to change that information.
Because one of her reasons was that being with a woman is “gross” and I clearly was going through a phase I would later regret.
Because when gay marriage was made legal in Canada people I know and care about protested it.
Because my sexuality has been used to justify irrational jealousy in the past.
Because I was scared to come out until I was 33 years of age; worried I would risk my ability to find employment in a traditionally conservative job field.
Because the worst trolls I’ve dealt with came out of the woodwork when I came out of the closet.
Because even now loved ones post homophobic memes on Facebook, some of them implying that I (by virtue of being queer) do not deserve to be a mother, to have the same rights as them, and, in some cases, to even exist.
Because I never want my son to hide who he is, or to think that a friend of his should.
Because right now there are States (I’m looking at you, Texas) who would rather children stay in (sometimes) overcrowded foster home or group homes rather than find a loving (queer) family.
Because in some areas of the world, a gun has more rights than a queer individual.
Because members of the LGBTQ+ community are still persecuted and marginalized, while their oppressors face little to no consequence.
It matters because I am sick of these things being fact. It matters because speaking out and being visible is one way to change the status quo.
It matters because I need to believe that love *is* stronger than hate; that love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, and that love can change the world. Being visible, speaking out, and celebrating my first pride as queer woman who is proudly out of the closet is important because maybe, just maybe, it will inspire others to do the same or to reevaluate how they treat the queer community. Maybe knowing that a relative or friend or neighbour or the girl who tailors your kid’s speech therapy lessons to his favourite Paw Patrol character is queer will help change how people like me are seen in society.
It matters because Pride means so many things to so many people.
But above all else, it matters because we matter, and no one should have the right to take that away.
Ashley is a freelance writer and office manager, who enjoys reading, crafting, and archery. She collects comic books, stationary, and empty journals that for some reason never see a pen. Ashley spends her free time enjoying bright lights in the dark, counting down the months until new Doctor Who, and watching Daily Show alumni on late night TV