Let’s get the salacious part out of the way: We still don’t really know why the Cleveland Pride parade, rally and festival were abruptly canceled last week. Ever since Cleveland Pride, Inc. ambushed our community with the most vague press release of all the press releases in all the land (citing a chimera called a “changing social climate”), no further explanation has officially been provided. There has been finger-pointing aplenty, assorted declarations of unsubstantiated threats and even some actual conspiracy theories.
But here’s the important part: none of that matters anymore!
Following the cancelation announcement, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland (a separate group from Cleveland Pride, Inc.) joined together with 18 different organizations to present Pride in the CLE. They worked with Cleveland city officials, law enforcement and community leaders to guarantee the safety of our entire community for an event that has been distilled down to the core essence of Pride: a march of organizations and individuals across a bridge into downtown Cleveland and a festival celebrating our vibrant LGBTQ community. No entrance fee. No 1980s singer/songwriters on stage. No vendors. Just Pride.
The refrain I have heard constantly in the past week has been, “We should feel Pride every day in our hearts.” Embedded in this sentiment is the implicit idea that we don’t really need a march, a festival, a rally, a party or even a potluck. Heck, that’s what I myself was feeling a week ago before Cleveland Pride was canceled. But after what I have witnessed first-hand in the past 8 days, I am prepared to call bullshit on the idea of not needing a day of Pride.
Despite the outrage and confusion that we felt both in Cleveland and all around the world, we immediately saw people coming together to make Pride happen. Individuals here in Cleveland planned a variety of pop-up Prides events. Pride organizers everywhere from Orlando to Chicago to Pittsburgh to Great Falls, Montana(!) immediately stepped forward to ask what they could do to help. Everyone everywhere (gay and straight alike) just paused and said, “We need this.”
Because we do need a day of Pride. We do need a day to celebrate our rich LGBTQ cultural history. We do need a day where people can be out and proud with their children or their coworkers or just themselves, a privilege not everyone enjoys the whole year round. We do need a day to stop and say, “Hey! We don’t have the same rights and protections as our cisgender brothers and sisters in employment and housing and blood donation and adoption and in not being, y’know, murdered and that inequality is not ok!”
Can we do all of this every day of the year on our own? Of course. But Pride is about doing this together, being seen as a group, protesting as a collective and just standing next to someone else. There’s a unique power in that feeling of community and it is a power we absolutely must wield.
As for me personally, I went from not caring a whit about Pride to a cemented commitment of volunteering for Pride for the rest of my time on this planet. This is important work and I want to be a part of it. If I don’t see you at Pride in the CLE on August 13th this year, I hope to see you there in future. Because you can bet your sweet rainbows that I will be there. I need to be. We all do.