Pride: What Does It Mean to You?

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In light of this week’s news from the border, the above image is almost unbearable, right? In one breath, a child and parent celebrating diversity and acceptance. In another, from the turbulent waters of the Rio Grande, the diametric opposite. How can we derive hope from despair?

Pride has changed. Before my son came out at the age of 16, to me it was just a day to celebrate everyone in the LGBTQ community. In my life and my family, that was as deserving a cause as Rosh Hashanah or the 4th of July. My wife, who lives in Chicago and works in HIV/AIDS, lives and breathes the queer life. She stopped going to the parties because they had become something else – a raucous occasion where the message, it seemed, was getting lost in the revelry.

In New York this year there is a splinter march – a whole group marching in the opposite direction to protest the commercialization of Pride. I get it. No one wants their cause co-opted to give away branded t-shirts and satisfy the Board.

I’ll take my messaging from my son, who teaches me a lesson nearly every time he opens his mouth. Last year we bumped into him at the Pride celebration in the Village. He was with friends, tall and handsome in shorts and an unbuttoned button-down in the blazing heat, a look of pure joy on his face. We hugged in passing. Later that night I commented that he looked so…happy. He told me that he was. That as much as we constantly remind him of our acceptance, that Pride is his happiest day of the year. Of course I asked why.

“Because I get to be who I really am, Dad, and I’m with my community and I don’t need to explain it to anyone.”

That felt exactly right to me. The concept – that in our beautiful, diverse polyglot country – that the Supreme Court would even deign to allow challenges to this concept is insane. What’s next, clawing back on a woman’s right to choose?

Do you have a gay or trans or queer or questioning child? Do you know everything about the person sitting next to you at work or in your place of worship? Do you need to???

Last week, the streets of Prague and the week before that, Hong Kong, were mobbed with hundreds of thousands of people protesting for Democracy. Pride is a little like that. The right to choose. This weekend in New York and Barcelona, Paris, San Francisco and San Antonio, and countless other cities around the planet, millions will take to the street to celebrate. Pride. Being different. And not having to explain that to a soul. I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll bump into my son. Or someone just like him. No explanation necessary.

Ken Carlton is the editor-in-chief of You can follow him on Instagram @mrswagnerspies.

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