The moment on June 28 at the Stonewall bar in Greenwich, New York, was triggered by people rising in anger against centuries of homophobia, oppression and discrimination.
Since then, June has been celebrated as Pride Month by the LBGTQ community and their friends with parades and other festivities, film screenings and many other activities.
Working in an organization fighting for the rights of marginalized people including the LGBTQ, I have always asked myself: Can the community be really proud? Is their integration into mainstream community complete?
When these questions come to mind, I remember Tung.
When I was working as an LGBTQ reporter for a local newspaper, out of nowhere, Tung sent me a message. We set up an appointment, also on a June afternoon. I was thinking about asking him to be featured in one of my articles.
“I used to cut myself here; it was both painful and frightening. The knife was also rusty. After two tries, I stopped. It left nothing but two blurred scars. Finally I have my own “trophy” to mark a depressing period of my life,” Tung said as he recalled his past.
When Tung's father found out that his son had a boyfriend in grade 11, he was weirdly quiet. He grit his teeth, mumbled something without opening his mouth fully. And “his eyes were full of hatred.”
His father was also blunt: “There is no place for guys like you in my house.”
After that incident, Tung thought many times about taking his life. He stayed alive, not because of some miracle, but because of countless efforts. He tried to understand himself better, saved every penny to spend on therapy and talked to his parents despite being ostracized. His years of coming out and finding himself was an “emotional rollercoaster,” but eventually, things got better.
I have known Tung and other people of the LGBTQ community for years and I have realized that they are not proud of their sexual orientation, gender, sexual expression and things like that. Surrounded by prejudice and discrimination, they work extremely hard to overcome difficulties and challenges every day.
We do not realize how lucky we are to live a “normal” life as heterosexuals, with many privileges that homosexuals do not have, like getting partner insurance, legal inheritance, being able to hold hands or kiss your partner in public places, not worrying about being fired over our sexual orientation, not being the constant butt of lame jokes and so on.
Just consider that the suicide rate among homosexuals is much higher than the “normal” people. One study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2018 found 4.6 percent of Americans considering suicide at some point in their life. This percentage among the homosexual and bisexual group was roughly 20 percent and about 41 percent among the transgendered community.
I believe that Pride Month is not only for LGBTQ people to be proud, but also be fully aware of challenges they have to encounter every day. For the rest of us, June is a month to acknowledge their struggle and our privileges, and to express and show solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
There is this video I have watched many times. A colored mother is talking to her daughter who is crying because she thinks that she is not beautiful. The mother tells her: “You are strong, you are loved, you are beautiful.”
This is something we need to tell our LGBTQ brethren – that we admire their courage, that we stand with them in their struggles, that they are loved, that they are us and we are them.
When this full acceptance happens, Pride Month will be a matter of pride for all of us.
*Bui Minh Duc is a media specialist at non-profit iSEE and a freelance reporter. The opinions expressed are his own.
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