Last weekend, our family of four attended Montclair, New Jersey’s first ever Pride Festival, the theme of which was: “Be You. Be Heard.”
Vendors and organizations set up colorful tables, gave out freebies featuring their logos and brands, and handed out a plethora of pride flags emblazoned with the colorful stripes and symbols of various identity-groups within queer community,including many that helped folks share their pride as vocal and visible allies.
The day was a joyous success. I witnessed middle schoolers wandering the festival in groups, sporting unique outfits and tie-dye hairstyles, introducing one another to their girlfriends or boyfriends or “joyfriends” (a non-binary, gender-inclusive word for “someone-you’re-dating”) from nearby towns. I heard straight-appearing parents teaching their young ones what “LGBTQ pride” means, saying, “Pride is about everyone being accepted, no matter who they are or whom they love.” I saw multi-generational families of all hues walking down the street together, smiling and dancing. Many people (and dogs and birds, for that matter) displayed this slogan on their shirts and bandanas: “Love is Love.”
I loved being a part of Montclair Pride, just as I’ve loved being a part of every other Pride event I’ve attended, since the first time I marched with my college contingent in the summer of 1996. I love that so many people wore pins or stickers sharing their various pronouns: he, she, they, ze… I love that Out Montclair managed to bring together a town, a community, that was diverse and celebratory. I love that local businesses and national sponsors wanted to be a part of sending the message that everyone deserves love and dignity.
At the same time, I fretted over whether to share the images of our family sporting the logos of businesses who may or may not advocate, in their politics and policies, for the concrete rights the queer community continues to need. I worried that that celebratory line, Love is love, might too easily be interpreted as, “It doesn’t matter who you are, provided you’re just like me.” I worried that I was sending the message that pride is about commercialism and cupcakes.
After all, it’s pretty easy to assert that Love is love, but slogans do not protect anyone from violence, or from laws that censor…