If you visited any major metropolitan area in June, you were greeted with a panoply of rainbows, that beacon of the LGBTQIAP+ community as it celebrated Pride Month and the fiftieth anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn. Our local landscape was sadly not as bedecked with these colorful totems. Progressive as our Valley may be in many areas, we are decidedly behind the curve in overtly recognizing the rights and celebrating the causes of “other” orientations. I use quotations here because there is no such thing as other. We are all one humanity. Every person of every stripe everywhere deserves to be supported every hour of every day of every year, not just on a set month, week, or day.
This year’s Pride, being a milestone of a catalyst event of the gay rights movement, was even more poignant. It is both an encouraging progression and a disturbing eventuality that the iconography of Pride was utilized in, perhaps co-opted by, mainstream corporate messaging. To the extent that the intentions of such campaigns were pure and revenues put toward organizations supporting LGBTQIAP+ rights, this is a tremendous development. If, as our erstwhile Supreme Court believes, corporations are people, then they can be allies too. However, they cannot play this role if they are simply rainbow-bedazzling consumer goods purely for profit. Pride should not be cheapened by commerce.
There being no one archetype of the incredibly diverse LGBTQIAP+ universe, Pride Month has a multitude of meanings. It is an excuse to exuberate, sure, but it is also a time for reflection, for identifying support systems, for remembering one’s journey out of the closet, for daring to take the terrifying step of coming out, for simply understanding the gorgeous individuality of the human collective. It is a time when straight, cisgender people go out of their way to claim their status as allies. It is also the time for concocting ridiculous concepts like Straight Pride, which is as dumb as White Lives Matter and no less offensive.
These experiences, save perhaps the idiotic ones, should not be relegated to a single temporal space. Every second, there is a lonely gay boy struggling with his identity, pretending to like that girl so that he can just be accepted without question. Every second, there is a transitioning woman lambasted for daring to be himself. Every second, there are homophobic epithets bandied about, fearsome when levied with malice and even more terrifying when used casually. The psychic baggage of this implicit or explicit hate weighs more heavily upon its targets with every tick of the clock. Disproportionately, it leads to the self-abuses that inevitably foretell the premature ending of a beautiful, precious life.
Pride is a daily event. There is never a bad time to tell someone that you have their back. There is never an unwelcome opportunity to get to know someone better, to more fully understand them and their journey so that you can in turn be a better ally. There is never an inopportune moment to rejoice in progress, to stand in awe at the magnificent strength of a hero or a martyr. There is never an excuse to hide behind the traditional machismo of a mountain town and ignore the contributions of every single member of the place that we call home. Pride is more than just rainbows, but they are a start, a symbol that the Vail Valley pledges to do better by each of our citizens and visitors.