LGBTQ Pride month and why we still march

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Rainbow map of New Jersey

Happy LGBTQ Pride month

The cavalcade of rainbows all over social media can only mean one thing: It’s Pride Month, an annual celebration of LGBT culture and politics. Pride celebrations are a lot different than the old days when AIDS ran roughshod and remorselessly over the LGBT community.

Look for Pride events in NJ on the Out In Jersey events page

Nowadays, Pride is more a celebration of our community’s hard-fought cultural—and political mojo. Instead of AIDS memorials for example, we now have supervised rock climbing walls for the kids of LGBTs to play on while their moms are off enjoying the live band.

But plenty of people out there who aren’t feeling the rainbow. They wish LGBT people would go home and keep quiet. They call us divisive for having a parade and remain furious at LGBT people for flaunting our lifestyles and ramming it down everyone’s throat.

So here’s why Pride Month is more relevant than ever:

  1. Visibility matters.

When queried “Why does it still matter,” NJ State Senator Loretta Weinberg called Pride Month “a sign of community together.”

She’s right. Visibility matters. It may not matter to you and that’s ok. But it matters to every queer kid in America growing up without love and support from their parents.

  1. Because they still call us faggots

I’ve been called faggot enough to know that those kinda insults are infrequent and usually roll off my back. But every faggot (in this case, me) has his limits. Just before COVID, during a protest of New Jersey’s bear hunt, a couple bros swerved their Dodge pickup uncomfortably close and yelled out something like “you’re all a bunch of c**ks-ckers! Get the fu-k out to here!”

Not missing a beat, I fired back something like “besides y’all, I’m the only c**ks-cker here at the moment!”

My fellow activists high-fived me for getting the last word. They seemed energized watching me stick up for myself. It felt like my quick retort actually won the moment and kept me from losing face. But here’s the tea: getting called faggot (or worse) in front of my activist—and media cohorts was actually really humiliating.

So as long as homophobic slurs flow freely in America, we’ll keep doing our Pride Month, thank you very much.

3. Still not equal.

Dean Dafis is Maplewood NJ’s deputy mayor. “Laws oppressing us are still being passed,” . Dafis shared. “Our dignity still rests in the Supreme Court’s hands, shame and stigma pervades every hateful act, our political representation is slim (though better than it was), trans persons are being murdered with impunity, trans youth are denied access to sports and restrooms, because LGBTQ youth are denied LGBTQ inclusive curriculum in their studies, because LGBTQ youth are far more likely to experience suicidal ideation.”

That’s why we march.

4. The “Most Heterosexual State Legislature” in America.

There are 120 seats in New Jersey’s General Assembly, none held by an LGBT person. We’ll hear a lot of pandering this Pride Month, especially from the democrats who loves memes about equality. But when it comes down to it, the gatekeepers in both parties very rarely give LGBTs folks a path to higher office.

I live in Cherry Hill, home to the Camden County Democratic Committee, undisputedly the most dominant political machine in modern NJ political history. So can anyone tell me the last time the Camden Democrats elected (or even nominated) an LGBT person to become mayor or county commissioner or state lawmaker?

Because I don’t recall it ever happening.

5. Not a fetish

Pride matters “because trans folks are still bullied and murdered damn near all the time, “Jackie Cornell said. “And because our sexuality is still fetishized, tokenized and used as a wedge or political issue.” Ms. Cornell is the former #2 at New Jersey’s Department of Health where she promoted HIV eradication. She was #21 on InsiderNJ’s most recent OUT 100 Power List, a tribute to politically influential LGBTs in New Jersey.

Ok so lets discuss the part about our sexuality being fetishized. Awkward to even contemplate is it not? Well here’s some more tea: tying the word “lesbian” into Porn Hub’s search engine generated over 84,657 results. That’s a lot of content produced and packaged mostly for consumption by straight guys. The actors on so-called lesbian porn are usually straight women playing gay for pay.

For which, according to the porn marketplace, there’s a booming demand.

6. Trans Lives Matter

So why do we march? “Just a reminder that trans folks are violently killed every day,” Tim Eustace told InsiderNJ. “We have not won the battle.”

A former Assemblyman Tim Eustace was the states lone LGBT state lawmaker when he took his shot at a vacant Senate seat. NJ Democratic Party coalesced  around a rival sending Eustace into retirement.

7. Still No AIDS vaccine 

Remember when a global pandemic hit the general population and we came up with multiple vaccine therapeutics in record time?

Remember when a global pandemic hit the LGBT population and the government did nothing. And 40 years later, still no HIV vaccine.

As long there’s no HIV vaccine, we’ll keep doing Pride Month.

Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster who’s been HIV+ nearly 30 years. He’s does Pride Month because it’s fun. He’s on Twitter @Jay_Lass. This article was originally published at InsiderNJ.com