As part of The Big Smoke’s Next Gen program, Giselle Atlas (age 13) discusses what LGBTQ+ pride month means to her and her community.
Student: Giselle Atlas
Mentor: Valerie Buhajiar
Topic: Even with protection laws, life isn’t easy for young people in the LGBTQ+ community; everyone should celebrate Pride month.
Who we love is a very important part of any human’s life. You watch the news and see reports on celebrity dating scandals, you log in to Facebook and see all your friends talking about their significant other or lack thereof. Love is what makes us human. For a long, long time, however, people such as myself have had to keep that a secret. But there is one month a year that reminds the people of the LGBTQ+ community that we should be proud of who we are. That we should be proud of how far we have come. That month is June: Pride month.
Pride month is important to me and all of the members of the LGBTQ+ community. It is a time to commemorate the Stonewall riots that happened late June in 1969 in New York. In the 1960s there were a series of police raids on gay bars—places that were meant to be safe for people in the LGBTQ+ community—but at the Stonewall Inn, the police were unable to control the situation which turned into a series of protests. Quickly, activist groups began appearing, concentrating their efforts on making places for LGBTQ+ people where they could be completely open about their sexuality without the fear of being arrested. Within only a few years, gay rights groups were formed all over the world. The first Pride march occurred on June 28, 1970, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.
Many heterosexual people wonder why they can’t have a Pride month—which I think is absolutely stupid. Tell me one time when you have been discriminated against or made to feel like less of a human because you’re heterosexual. You can’t? Of course, you can’t! It used to be illegal and still is in many countries for people in the LGBTQ+ community to even exist. I know heterosexuals are used to being the center of attention, but please let us have one month a year.
To let you all fully understand what Pride month means to teenagers in the LGBTQ+ community, I asked a couple of my LGBTQ+ friends (one who preferred to remain anonymous) what Pride month and/or the LGBTQ+ community meant to them:
“Growing up in the 21st century, society taught me from a young age the concept of equality. Although I may not have understood the idea of LGBTQ+ and what attraction meant at a young age, it was ingrained in my brain to be accepting of anyone’s sexuality along with race, gender identification, and all previously marginalized groups. I am lucky to grow up in a generation where equality is deemed important, which came in handy when I myself identified as bisexual.
“The best of LGBTQ+ acceptance in society is found when coming out to people close to you. Some have an immediate understanding. Some may not be educated on the topic, but if they value you they’ll try to understand and will give respect to your identity.
“It’s extremely lucky to grow up in a more accepting environment. Our generation has drastically improved our acceptance, but we still have quite a way to go. Keep working for equality.” —Stella
“2019 Pride month is the first Pride month that I was a part of with a somewhat solid understanding of my orientation. While I have confirmed that I’m either asexual or demisexual, I’m still not entirely sure what I am, and Pride month, to me, means that I would belong no matter what; it means that LGBTQ+ teens have a chance to fit in and find others who have similar experiences or stories to them. It’s a month that allows them to celebrate who they are.
“While straight people believe that Pride month shouldn’t exist simply because ‘yes, you exist, whatever’ and they feel that they deserve a Pride month as well, they don’t understand that every single other month is a Pride month for them. They get to be who they are without being worried that they’ll be discriminated against. Pride month means that the teens of the LGBTQ+ community can finally feel like they’re being celebrated and explored.” —Anonymous
Some people believe that when people in the LGBTQ+ ask for more equality that they’re being greedy. They believe that the right to marry and the right to exist is enough. But it isn’t. Parents are still bringing up children telling them that being gay is wrong, LGBTQ+ people are constantly being bullied, abused, sometimes even killed over their sexuality. LGBTQ+ young people are still five times more likely to try/commit suicide in their lifetime according to the National LGBTI Health Alliance. And yet people still think the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t deserve a whole month, that we shouldn’t be “greedy” when asking for more rights, that we should just keep quiet about who we are. I have been told all those things and more by plenty of different people, whether they’re adults or children my own age.
I will not stay silent. I will not hide who I am because of your views. I will not listen to your “opinion” on whether I deserve basic human rights. I am how God made me. And God makes no mistakes.
This article is part of a series for The Big Smoke Next Gen.
The Big Smoke Next Gen is a program which matches professional and experienced writers, academics, and journalists with students who wish to write nonfiction articles and voice their opinions about what is shaping the world.
For more information about our program at The Big Smoke, or to become a mentor, please contact us.