Cornett: The importance of gay prideWritten by Rick Cornett | | CountryConnection@toledofreepress.com
As I prepare to be in Toledo’s first Gay Pride Parade, I can’t help but think back to a time not so long ago when I thought there would never be a black president in my lifetime, much less gay marriage legalized or a gay pride festival in my hometown. Well, here it is 2011 and all these have happened — and I’m not even an old man yet. I now have hope that before I die all 50 states will make gay marriage legal and a gay/lesbian person has a shot at being the president of the United States.
Things are changing quickly and for the better, my gay friends and allies. I feel so blessed I was born when I was and can experience my own gay history as it unfolds. I know many people don’t understand the importance of the gay pride movement and the events that surround it. My straight friends ask me why gays and lesbians need parades and festivals — they only see it as a protest.
Well, heterosexuality is assumed of everyone and there is no shame cast upon it if you are born that way. When you are born gay — and I truly believe we are — society forces judgment, shame and unequal rights upon us. Many people are ashamed of being gay because ignorant people have told them it is wrong; they are discriminated against, harassed and threatened.
Gay pride is important because it brings awareness to issues and needs many GLBTQA (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allies) people deal with daily. It is also a celebration of pride within ourselves and our gay community. It is a great way to come together as one and try to bring hope and change to America. Something as big as a festival with so many people involved showing their support shows that there is nothing to be afraid of and nothing to hide. It is so liberating to set yourself free and celebrate who you are without fear or shame. It takes a strong and proud person to stand up for their rights and walk through this world with no shame in the fact they were born attracted to the same sex. We’re not asking for special rights, just equal rights.
It saddens me that many of the gay youth coming out today do not appreciate the great strides the older members of the gay community have made for our acceptance. Today it is much easier to be gay in school or the workplace and to come out to family and friends. Although we still have a long way to go, I hope they will join in and support our efforts in bettering the lives of gay people. The gay pride festival is about having fun but there is a purpose behind it.
Toledo is the fourth-largest city in Ohio and there is no reason why we can’t have an annual gay pride festival and parade here. Columbus just celebrated its 30th annual gay pride parade and it is one
of the largest in the nation. I’m proud to be a part of Toledo’s annual gay pride festival and the support we have received from the city, Mayor Mike Bell and all the corporate sponsors. My friend, Lexi Staples, deserves major credit for spearheading this event and bringing it to life with the Pride committee — thank you!
I’d also like to extend a big hug to Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller, Publisher Tom Pounds and the entire staff at Toledo Free Press Star for its embrace of the gay community and its willingness to publish this gay pride issue.
I look forward to continuing our partnership with Toledo Free Press for the 34th annual Holiday with Heart dinner and dance for the GLBT community, which will take place Dec. 3 at the Toledo Club (more information on that event is available at www.holidaywithheart.org).
I can tell you now that I am proud to be a gay man. I’ve not always felt that way about myself or the society I live in. I am proud to live in a world filled with people of so many different characteristics. I am proud to join my fellow citizens as we march for acceptance and celebrate who we are. We are all human beings and fellow citizens. We should all celebrate that together and strive for the day when there is no need for demonstrations, marches or coming out. Pride is power!