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    Pride: ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

    By Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis–

    Everything Everywhere All at Once—it’s of course the history-making and Oscar-winning film starring the amazing Michelle Yeoh. But when asked earlier this week how we might describe “Pride,” nothing seemed more apt than the title of this Academy Award winner.

    Certainly, everything, everywhere, all at once sums up the experience of those of us who overdo it every year in June by trying to squeeze in as many community events, parties, film festival screenings, and marches as humanly possible. But everything, everywhere, all at once also captures a deeper truth. At 10:30 am on Sunday when Dykes on Bikes rev their engines to kick off the 54th annual Pride Parade down Market Street, hundreds of millions of LGBTIQ people from San Francisco to Beijing to Lagos and back again will be experiencing their gender identity and sexual orientation and living their lives in myriad diverse ways under very different circumstances.

    Let’s break it down, starting with everything. We are proud that our ever-expanding queer community aspires to include an extraordinary breadth of experience within it. We asked an AI chatbot to give us the most inclusive acronym possible for our community, and it answered:

    LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA. We were impressed but immediately noticed that 2S, SGL, and K were missing, just to name a few—not to mention the + sign.

    We enjoy having fun with our community’s ever-expanding alphabetic moniker—will it exceed 26 letters at some point?—but more importantly, we are enormously grateful to be part of a diverse community seeking to include everyone whose life experience differs from perceived norms when it comes to gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as everyone who loves and supports us. We celebrate how more and more people continually create new vocabulary to affirm their lives, find community, and relate their experiences to a wider world. Pride means living just as we are, as openly and joyfully as we can.

    Now, everywhere: the popular slogan “we are everywhere” awakens the world to LGBTIQ people’s presence in all walks of life and inspires queer visibility. But it also means understanding that LGBTIQ people face very different challenges, and experience greatly different joys and sorrows, depending on where they live.

    In San Francisco, this year’s celebration entitled “Beacon of Love” marks the 20th anniversary of the Winter of Love that ignited the ongoing worldwide marriage equality movement. But this year’s Pride theme is also a call for the city to do everything possible to embrace and stand up for vulnerable trans youth who are now the target of the political right and whose lives are at risk in conservative Republican-controlled states.

    At Bangkok Pride’s “Celebration of Love” extravaganza a few weeks ago, people reveled in the streets as Thailand moves full steam toward marriage equality later this year. Last week, the Thai Senate voted in favor of the freedom to marry by a whopping 130 to 4 margin, following the Thai House of Representatives overwhelming passage of the bill by a vote of 400 to 10 a few months ago. All that awaits is the King’s signature for Thailand to become the third country in Asia with marriage equality, following Taiwan and Nepal.

    Significantly, Thailand will be the first Asian nation to enact marriage equality through the legislative process as a priority of the government and with stratospheric public support. The Thai victory represents a monumental step forward for LGBTIQ rights across Asia, which will inspire countless activists and put pressure on other governments across the region to move toward equality as well. We couldn’t be more thrilled.

    But we are well aware that at the same time—all at once —61 countries criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts with the death penalty possible in as many as 12 countries, according to the ILGA World Database. LGBTIQ rights are shrinking in countries like Putin’s Russia and Museveni’s Uganda. And queer people’s lives are at risk in war-torn places around the globe.
    If we search for a universal meaning to Pride, it must include those of us whose very lives, freedom, or well-being are in peril. For those in desperate circumstances, it might be just holding on to hope and affirming our beauty and self-worth as LGBTIQ people ourselves, while finding community however we can. For those of us who are more fortunate, we can ask ourselves what sustained us in our own darkest hour.

    And for those of us who live in free societies, we must remember that Pride began as a protest, and that recommitting ourselves to activism is an essential component of Pride. Through the tireless efforts of queer activists and allies, the number of countries that criminalize our lives has been cut in half over the last 35 years with Namibia being the latest to overturn its law just last week. Marriage equality was nearly unimaginable 35 years ago, but today millions of queer people have the freedom to marry in 35 countries.

    Finally, Pride is about coming together as community. A magical component of the worldwide queer community is the opportunity to build bonds and feel empathy with others across the divides of language, culture, history, and geography. As many perceive polarization growing in the U.S. and abroad, experiencing connection with people worldwide through our shared queerness and in other positive ways can be transformative. Indeed, some theorize that evolution has hardwired people to want to form groups: what if we could expand that group to truly include everyone?

    Everything, everywhere, all at once: it’s a truth, it’s a vision, it’s Pride. Happy Pride 2024!

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008.

    6/26 And Beyond
    Published on June 27, 2024