Out, Loud, Proud and Free
Published Thursday, 15-Jul-2010 in issue 1177
The San Diego LGBT Community Center
San Diego LGBT Pride is a weekend for celebration. It began as a radical statement, a rejection of the rhetoric that labeled LGBT individuals and families as deviant, un-human and second-class. Pride is a celebration intended to say, “We are every bit as human, as valuable, as talented, as important and as deserving of respect as any other group of people and families. We are your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends and your family. We will not give in nor listen to the messages intended to hurt, shame and humiliate us. This weekend, and many others, we are out, loud and proud, and … we will be free.”
That was the statement then and, in every heart that believes in justice, that is the statement today.
Yes it’s a party. It’s a party we give for every youth who has been thrown out of his or her home because they came out, for every senior who has fought for justice and is now frightened by their own aging and what lies ahead for them, for every LGBT family trying to choose safe schools for their kids, for every man or woman who will come, hang back and watch, wishing they lived in a world that valued them and where they were free. It’s a party for every LGBT person who still struggles to feel proud and free.
And it’s a proud celebration – a statement of the things we are proud of.
I am proud of the help and support we are offered by our social justice allies. Listen to the crowd celebrate every church and temple congregation who have the courage to march with us toward the justice their values truly celebrate, the clapping for PFLAG and our families who stand up with us despite the disdain and ignorance of some of their friends, and the applause for the businesses and the organizations who come to say, “We are with you and willing to stand for equality.”
I am also proud of the nearly 40-year history of the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s service. From an answering machine in a borrowed closet that served as a lifeline for those frightened, lonely and looking for compassionate connection to today, the nation’s second oldest and third largest LGBT Community Center. I am inspired daily by the incredible dedication of 800 volunteers, 20 board members and 40 staff who spend every day attempting to serve the full diversity of our community – youth, seniors, families, men, women, Latinos, African Americans, Asian-Americans, those struggling with HIV/AIDS – and managed, despite the economy, to serve 46,000 client last year. From protecting our youth from the all-too-common bullying and harassment in their schools and providing shelter for the 40% of homeless youth who are LGBT to finding safe retirement and care environments for our trail-blazing generation of seniors, the staff at The Center give everything they have to make a difference in real lives every day. They care for those whose life circumstances leave them vulnerable to the small hearted forces of ignorance and hate and for those whose lives continue to be filled with silence and fear. I am proud of the tremendous heart of The Center.
But I am most proud of those whose names we’ll never read – business men and women, labor leaders, workers, families, youth, seniors, accountants, waitpersons, attorneys, doctors, teachers, nurses, people who work at every type of job and all over the county, who volunteer for an endless number of schools, hospitals and organizations, who pay their taxes, vote, raise their families and care for their neighbors, and who continue to stand out, loud and proud with the LGBT movement toward equality. Those are the people who make up the LGBT and allied communities, and Pride celebrates every one of them and their ongoing courage and commitment to justice.