Editor’s note: The author delivered the following speech at last week’s Pride Parade in Spokane.
Do you know your history? I don’t mean the history from books or Google, and definitely not from school. I mean the history that runs through your veins. It is in your DNA. It is your innate quality of just being human. It is why this day has always been and remains your day.
Forty-eight years ago in the early morning hours of June 28th in an unassuming bar in New York City, we stood up (the Stonewall riots). We emerged from the shadows and we refused to remain unseen. The light hit our faces and the sun felt good.
We found what makes us strong. We found our common humanity, and we needed it. For soon we would find ourselves holding the hands of our brothers as they died, for so long not knowing why. Just whispers in hallways and hurried glances, in a world that would not speak our names.
Our LGBT brothers and sisters held strong together, our allies bridged our worlds, and we found our voices. Stand Up! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!
We took to the streets. We took over news stations. We took care of our own until the leaders and the doctors would claim us again. We would not be unseen. It’s true we were dying once, but now we live!
And we learned! We learned how to fight, for our strength has been born in the trenches, our determination hardened by resistance, our love ignited by a hate! On a fateful day in 2015 our love was acknowledged, not because love can be legislated or that love has ever needed permission to exist, but because we demanded our equal respect, our shared rights, our common humanity.
Our fight has not ended; it has only intensified as we were sadly reminded last year. As we celebrated our pride in Spokane, the Pulse (nightclub) massacre in Orlando shook us to our knees. But fear will never silence us. Our hope has held us strong for decades upon decades and will continue to light our way into the future – even as some want us to go away, as they put fingers in their ears and close their eyes. But when they open them, we are still here, we still stand, we still love, we … still … fight! We will not be unseen!
Do not mistake me for wanting this day to be somber, to turn our party down. On the contrary, let our history remind you why we celebrate. Let it make you dance longer, scream louder and love harder. Let it inspire you to embody your pride, to let it sweat from your pores. This day is my day; it’s your day; it belongs to all our LGBT people and our allies; it belongs to all of us.
And we know better than most how to fight and we remember that the fight is not over when we are tired, it is over when it is done. We have only begun to fight, but for today we stand, we dance, we rise.
Today is ours and we celebrate. Happy Pride!
Jonathan Shuffield is the former host of the LGBT radio talk show “OUTSpoken” and currently the co-host of the celebrity podcast “The Martini Lounge” with Sergey Grankin.