Unsung: A Pride Month Invite

Look for the small heroes

Jun 19, 2024 at 2:52 pm
Unsung: A Pride Month Invite

In my life, I’ve always known someone who is gay. Always. From the time I was a child when my father would say someone was “sweet,” or “queer” (back when that was a not-so-nice phrase), I was always adjacent to people in the LGBTQ+ community. They were in my family. They were my neighbors, and eventually they were some of the closest and most dear members of my friend group… my chosen family. 

With this being Pride month, and in all of the celebrations, I started thinking about some moments that made me realize that the joy of being yourself could at times come with great risk. 

When I was in high school, at Male, my best guy friend at the time was a gay man. I knew it but this wasn’t the era that you ever asked that question. In the years since we’ve reconnected and he asked if I realized it back then. I mean, sort of but I didn’t even really have the terminology for it. I was green but I knew that I was securely in the friend zone and my crushes were always other boys. Hell, at this point, I was such a weirdo, my actual crushes were probably members of Duran Duran and not even boys that I knew. 

When I changed high schools to Seneca, there was a young person, who I only recall being called “Corky.” I am positive this was a derogatory nickname because they were a completely out queer person. They often ran up against the uptight administration, and rude kids, as they would challenge gender norms on the regular. Whether it was makeup, or wearing a skirt, they were determined to be exactly who they were… even in the late ‘80s suburban high school. I hope some of you remember them and can tell me who they were. From a distance, I really admired them. 

Unsung: A Pride Month Invite

I’ve always looked for the quiet heroes. 

There were others, some who I also have reconnected with and am happy to see them living as they are — in their truth. Free. 

As I grew, my friends who are gay have never had to hide themselves from me, or my family. Our house was a safe space for anyone, most especially folks who others might cast aside. 

Despite my dad’s silly comments in private, he welcomed all of our unique friends, and truly cared about them like they were his own children, or even befriended them with his entire heart. He didn’t make the connection, though, between his speech and his practice until much later. But his home was their home, all the time. 

By the time this note is published, one of my dearest friends will share their story about Pride events and, in that, raise a challenge to the Kentuckiana Pride Festival to find a way to keep the gates open. Even if that means, a paid concert becomes a separate thing. It isn’t a complaint but a tender plea to try as much as possible to avoid putting limits on one of the few places where the LGBTQ+ community can come together, meet, learn, and organize. 

In these safe places, change has been monumental. These quiet heroes have found ways to continue even if it means gathering the strength to wear their makeup or don a skirt in a classroom. Having a gathering place is a recharge. It’s integral. 

Black folks (and Black queer folks) deeply understand this. Recharging with each other is equally as powerful.

When you are with those who have lived and grown in a similar experience, you find compassion, care and a place to drop the pretenses of trying to fit into this broken place we call “America.”

The cloak of righteousness is strong in the right wing parties of the world right now. Even as their own houses are crumbling, they are trying to attack everyone around them — most outwardly trans children — instead of fixing their own foundations.

As those voices that oppose the LGBTQ+ community grow louder, it’s important for me to remember that, like my own rights as a Black person, the queer community has to continuously fight for safety and the right to simply exist in peace. As an ally, my job is to fight behind them, and to make space for them when they need it. 

In honor of all the quiet heroes I’ve known or observed in my life, if you are part of this community and have something to share, send it to me. If you aren’t but you want to spew hatred, keep your mouth shut, and computer closed, because I’m not accepting your inane rants right now.