As referenced on Wikipedia, “Gay pride or LGBT pride is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a social group.”[i]
Hello. My name is Michael (he/him) and I am a proud, gay man. I’ve been thinking about this blog post for quite some time. I’ve been thinking of how far we’ve come since the Stonewall riots on June 28, 1969. I look at the laws, the level of increased equity, and rights the LGBTQ+ community has fought so hard for and, finally, obtained. I also think of how fragile and quick those rights and laws can change based on our leaders and their social beliefs and political alignments.
While we have come a long way, there is still a long way to go. I’m actually wanting to bring attention to gender identity because it has been a very hot topic these days. Even the YMCA has been very intentional in including gender pro-nouns as part of our digital signatures and name tags. It’s a topic that I’ve even had very deep conversations about with my family and what the difference is between gender versus gender identity.
As my mom and I discussed the topic of restrooms and locker rooms, she had mentioned something very off the cuff. She had asked about providing them restrooms or locker rooms for them. As I told her, “we’ve done that before. Remember segregation?” At that point, I could hear the light bulb go off and I could tell she felt scratchy for even saying it.
Look, it’s okay to be uncomfortable reading and thinking about this stuff. Topics that make us uncomfortable or, as I like to say, scratchy, help us grow and learn and become more accepting of everyone around us! I challenged her, as I will challenge every one of you reading this, not to assume based on our own biases based on how someone looks from across the room, that you know their gender identity.
I want to challenge everyone to disconnect your assumptions based on how someone looks from across a room. I challenge you to ask someone ‘what gender pronouns do you go by’. Refer to them as ‘they/them’ from across a room or, even better yet, call them by their name. There is no other stronger connection you can make with someone when you call them by their name. It’s difficult! Even I struggle with it at times, but it’s that struggle that makes us all better!
So, as we celebrate Pride month, remember how far we’ve come, and how far the entire LGBTQ+ community has yet to go. Remember that, in almost an instant, things can change again if we don’t respect the fragility of equity and inclusion if we are complacent to all around us. We have to continue to respect, fight, and stand up FOR ALL around us.
Be sure to join us July 10 at this years Heartland Pride event![ii]
Michael O., Group Fitness Manager - Charles E. Lakin YMCA and Downtown YMCA