A year and a half before I was born…
The way that I love was illegal. In most parts of the world.
Loving like me was considered a mental health disorder.
It was illegal for people like me to hold hands or kiss their partner in public.
Bars didn’t serve people who love, or look, like me.
There were ‘gender-appropriate” clothing laws for people like me.
People who love like me were beaten. And killed. Just for loving like me.
Many people would rather have died by their own hand than live in a world where their love was hated. And many did.
People who love like me could be fired from their jobs based solely on their sexual orientation.
People could defend whatever violence they incurred against people who love like me using the gay panic defence — I deserved it because I hit on them.
Insurance companies could deny people who love like me without explanation.
50 years ago this year, six days of riots around the New York neighbourhood where the Stonewall Inn is located, galvanized gay rights and unwittingly began what is the Pride movement today.
In 50 years, we have come so far.
And we have so damn far to go.
Many of the things I mentioned above are still happening today — in some states, in some provinces, in some countries.
I’m a relative newcomer to being fully who I am. A late-bloomer. Fully out. It’s only been seven years. I used to be one of you. Straight, white, married, middle class, great job, great house, great family. It wouldn’t have occurred to me then what I was taking for granted.
Loving like me is not ever a choice. Not. Ever. You didn’t choose to be heterosexual either.
And, you don’t need a straight Pride parade. You have one everyday. Everyday that you show up in your matching wedding rings. Everyday that you hold hands with your husband or wife in the park. Or kiss them while you’re out walking. You don’t think twice about using the terms “husband” or “wife.” People who love like me are proud of our partners, too. And not always safe in public doing the loving things that you take for granted.
No one had to die or campaign for your heterosexual rights. For 50 damn years.
People who love like me are still dying by suicide and addiction, and still dying by violence at the hands of others. Far too often.
People who love like me still have to defend who they love.
Until all of us are free, none of us are free.
That’s why we walked in the Stratford Pride parade today, lost in a sea of rainbow flags. That’s what I thought about during the minute of silence in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. And, that’s what I thought about as we stood on the balcony of the Stratford Festival Theatre with everyone else from the newly-minted Queer Straight Alliance.
We stood on the shoulders of giants this morning. All those who came before. All those countless, nameless heroes and generations of couples that we can only honour now by living our best and most beautiful lives. Those we can only honour now by carrying on what they started so that others can live their best and most beautiful lives, too — in safety, comfort and love.
Pride is a celebration of our best and most beautiful lives. A reminder that discrimination is so last century. A reminder of progress made. And a reminder that history doesn’t just travel forwards— that it can go backwards if we don’t keep working hard. A reminder that there is hope and love for all.
It’s a reminder that when we move a little bit further on our journey toward equality and justice, we still have a responsibility to reach back and pull up others who are still striving to do the same.
Until everyone is free, none of us are free. So, til then, we walk.