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The Pride Month that was

There is another flag waved every June.

I remember when it used to just be the flag with a sun and three stars that represents national pride. Now, there is also the rainbow flag, representing communities across borders in many parts of the world, making June the most colorful month of the year.

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The past month, social media has been dotted with Pride Month posts. And just the past week, there was a Pride March near my place. I thought of my LGBT friends who joined that march.

Early in June, a really close gay friend frantically sent me a message. “May I rant?” he asked. “Of course,” I replied, eager to hear him out.

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Apparently, there erupted a big online argument over the possibility of same-sex civil unions in the country. He sent me a screenshot of an online poll conducted by the House of Representatives. He was frustrated over how the choices in the poll were phrased. As a researcher, I told him, “This wouldn’t even pass Goods and Scates,” referring to a research instrument evaluation tool.

He continued his rant while I served as the usual shock absorber. It was this exchange with my dear friend that taught me the history behind Pride Month.

Pride Month has its roots in the Stonewall riots that took place in New York City in 1969. In June of that year, a riot broke out when the police raided a gay bar called Stonewall Inn. The community was then largely secretive, but the riots inspired activism and protest among the often-harassed gay community until the movement grew to what has become the Pride Month we know today.

The rainbow flag that represents the celebration was designed by Gilbert Baker, a Vietnam War veteran and drag queen. The flag originally represented a revolution, but it has become associated with Pride. Brands from Adidas to Disney have embraced the rainbow flag in their products. Global parades have been organized with the rainbow color as the centerpiece.

I got a crash course from my friend on how important this celebration is for a group that was once oppressed and shunned into secrecy. I also got an idea of how important this is for us collectively, how our communal survival and evolution into a more humane, inclusive society lies in this solidarity—in celebrating both the diversity and commonality of the human race.

The New York City Police has since apologized for the Stonewall event 50 years ago, and the American Psychoanalytic Association has likewise apologized for once listing homosexuality as a disorder. In the Philippines, ordinances have been passed by various local governments to protect LGBTQIA+ rights. This year, there were even rainbow pedestrian lanes in Eastern Samar and Quezon City.

I am thankful for my friends and colleagues from this community. I grew up with strong indoctrination from a Catholic father and a Protestant mother (and, yes, I used to attend both services every Sunday). Over time, I realized that one simply cannot use religious doctrine to spew hate. It is also myopic to think that sexuality is all there is to a person, and that it can be categorized into neat little boxes. Today, I stand in solidarity with my gay friends, many of whom, when we were younger, were forced to live inauthentic lives by the dictates of conventional society.

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The act of solidarity, however, is not an act of merely patting the LGBTQIA+ community on the back and tolerating its members. It means sharing the burden with them—to be as equally alarmed or concerned over the challenges they have to face as a community, such as the fight to afford them the same basic human rights the rest of us enjoy and even take for granted.

There is still a long way to go to eliminate prejudice in our midst. But this community is nothing if not strong. Happy Pride, brothers and sisters!

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TAGS: LGBT, Philippines, Pride Month, rainbow flag
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