The Plus Of Pride

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June marked a very important month for millions of people in the United States — not just because it’s Safety month (what makes other months unsafe?) or because it’s National Accordion Awareness Month (not appreciation of accordions, but awareness). Yes, those are all actually recognized as official celebrations of June, but these holidays are not what this article is about, unfortunately, accordions will have to wait. June is Pride Month for the LGBTQIA, and cities all over the country are celebrating with parades and pride fests all month long. Many celebrities and pop culture figures have come out to support the community, from Danny DeVito dancing on a pride float in L.A. to Andrew Garfield dedicating his Tony award win to the LGBTQ community, a speech which would bring a tear to a glass eye. 

An unlikely source of inspiration has been the FX anti-sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. While yes, the show’s irreverent and dark nature has made it a symbol for everything wrong with humanity, it is also oddly encouraging from a pride standpoint. One of the main characters Mac, full name Ronald McDonald, played by Sunny creator Rob McElhenney, spends season after season in confusion and ultimately denial of the fact that he is gay. All of his friends know and wish that he would just accept it, not for his personal benefit, but just so they can all move on and focus on themselves once more. There are countless teases throughout the series to Mac’s true sexual identity, and everybody acknowledges it except him. Until one day, during a run-of-the-mill arbitration to determine “hero or hate crime?” Mac finally comes out as gay to the gang, supposedly just to claim ownership of a scratch-off ticket, but then decides to own his new identity and proclaims, “I think I’m out now, I’m gay. It actually feels pretty good.”

This moment, while still keeping in line with the cynicism that made Sunny beloved for now 12 seasons, actually displayed some depth and character development, the likes of which the show rarely sees. It also created a stir online, with various media outlets applauding the shows “sharp take on coming out” as Time put it. And that praise is entirely warranted because, not only is the entire sequence hilarious and well written, but it actually confronts a reality for millions of Americans. The episode, “Hero or Hate Crime?”, acknowledges the difficult task of coming out to a group of friends who may not even take the time to listen to you because of their own self-absorption. Does anyone even care about this huge step for me in coming out to the world? Should I just stay in and not make a spectacle of myself? Mac sent a message to every viewer when he decided to let his pride flag fly, and they heard it loud and proud.

A much more grounded and important example of the strength of the LGBTQIA community, somehow even more important than a fake person’s sexuality, has come from Ireland of all places. In 2017 Leo Varadkar was elected Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland, which was monumental because Varadkar is the first openly gay leader of a country which decriminalized homosexuality only 25 years ago. This massive wave of progressivism in Ireland can largely be attributed to the declining religiosity of the country, with a quarter of Irish citizens aged 14-25 not identifying with any organized religion. Now ornate cathedrals sit empty while thousands line the streets for Ireland’s pride parades all over the country, a tradition which started in 1983 as a reaction to the murder of Declan Flynn, a 31 year-old gay man, whose killers were given suspended manslaughter charges, a decision some in Ireland applauded at the time. But through that suffering, and the silent suffering of millions throughout Irish history, Ireland can now be seen as a beacon of progressive and inclusive ideals, led themselves by a member of the LGBTQIA community.

In America we have been lucky enough to enjoy a fair amount of pride and acceptance of the homosexuality community, at least when compared to other countries. But recently things seem to be at a standstill, as a division over the basic human rights of millions are once again brought into question. As the executive branch, only emboldened by the Supreme Court, rallies against rights, more and more people are required to use their voices to fight for a community that is in danger once again. A notable example from recent news was Olympic skater Adam Rippon who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but not before getting into a public feud with Vice President Mike Pence. When Rippon, who is openly gay, was selected for the U.S. men’s Olympic figure skating team, he was asked his thoughts on Pence being the face of the U.S. delegation to the Olympics. “I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” was his summation of the vice president. Rippon also did not shy away from mentioning Pence’s open support for using federal funds to help people “seeking to change their sexual behavior” during his Senate run in 2000. Then the vice president of the United States got into a public spat with a male figure skater, because why not? It was reported by various outlets that Pence had reached out to Rippon to discuss issues and refute Rippon’s claim that he supported gay conversion therapy, which is only really semantically true, as the quote above is from Pence’s website. It doesn’t say “conversion therapy,” just provides the definition for it. But Rippon didn’t back down from a fight with the vice president, instead he skated for his country and then returned to make it a better place by becoming a role model for LGBT youth.

So as your town gets colorful for pride month, remember that the achievement and influence of the LGBTQIA community does not end June 30. Everywhere you look, barriers are being broken. Last year, Virginia elected the first openly transgender state legislature by voting in Danica Roem. People are fighting for transgender people to keep their right to serve in the military. And, right now, there are rainbow flags flying in Russia because England’s Football Association unveiled a pride-themed version of the standard flag. It’s the perfect season for pride.