Words of Pride

Each year as Pride Month rolls around, I inevitably find myself reflecting on Prides past—some marked by emotions, others by accomplishment. I remember the giddiness I felt watching the parade in 1995 as a college student, just a couple months after coming out. I think about the many years I got to volunteer at my workplace’s booth at the festival, handing out countless cookies and dog treats. Perhaps most exciting was the first time I rode in the parade, shouting and waving along with the thousands of other proud members of our community.

There’s always something memorable about Pride—sometimes deeds and sometimes words. As I approach my 16th Pride, I thought perhaps in anticipation of the memorable deeds, we’d look back at some of the memorable words our community can take pride in to help to put us in the mood for our monthlong celebration. From the last century to this one, many in our community have given us hope and encouragement with their words. This year, it’s safe to say, we need them more than ever.

Kurt Hiller, Appeal on Behalf of an Oppressed Human Variety, Written for the Second International Congress for Sexual Reform (Copenhagen, 1928), and Presented by Magnus Hirschfeld:

“Same-sex love is not a mockery of nature, but rather nature at play; and anyone who maintains the contrary—that love, as everyone knows, is intended to serve the propagation of the species, that homosexual or heterosexual potency is squandered on goals other than procreation—fails to consider the superabundance with which Nature in all her largesse wastes semen, millions and billions of times over. As Nietzsche expressed it in Daybreak, ‘Procreation is a frequently occurring accidental result of one way of satisfying the sexual drive—it is neither its goal nor its necessary consequence.’ The theory that would make procreation the ‘goal’ of sexuality is exposed as hasty, simplistic, and false by the phenomenon of same-sex love alone.”

Frank Kameny to the Supreme Court of the United States, 1961:

“Petitioner asserts, flatly, unequivocally, and absolutely uncompromisingly, that homosexuality, whether by mere inclination or by overt act, is not only not immoral, but that for those choosing voluntarily to engage in homosexual acts, such acts are moral in a real and positive sense, and are good, right, and desirable, socially and personally.”

Harvey Milk, From a Version of His “Hope Speech,” Quoted in Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982), p. 363:

“And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant in television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.”

Quentin Crisp, Transcript of The Naked Civil Servant/Quentin Crisp Interview by Jessica Schuman, Broadcast on KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, 1978:

“In the beginning I was entirely unsure of myself, especially when I was at school. And when I was young I alternately confirmed and denied my existence. But after a while you can’t keep that up. You have to make up your mind whether you are going to try and make yourself over to the world’s opinion of what you should be like, or whether you’re going to stay with what you find that you are.”

Barbara Gittings, “Gay Liberation: From Task Force to Round Table,” Interview in American Libraries: The Magazine of the American Library Association, December 1999, pp. 74-76:

“As a teenager, I had to struggle alone to learn about myself and what it meant to be gay. Now for 48 years I’ve had the satisfaction of working with other gay people all across the country to get the bigots off our backs, to oil the closet door hinges, to change prejudiced hearts and minds, and to show that gay love is good for us and for the rest of the world too. It’s hard work—but it’s vital, and it’s gratifying, and it’s often fun!”

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