Why LGBTQ+ Pride Matters Every Month
I vividly remember the first time I stood up to a bully. I was in fifth grade and the bully just happened to be my teacher. She had taught at my elementary school for many years and the decades of dealing with 9- and 10-year-old students had begun taking its toll. Her patience was long gone, and she regarded our class with weariness and frustration; often telling us that we were “stupid,” “hopeless,” and that we “wouldn’t be able to achieve anything without her.”
After months of listening to the putdowns to me and my classmates, I decided I had to do something. One night I asked my parents if I could confront her and defend our class. I think most parents would’ve begun lecturing the importance of “respecting authority,” but — surprisingly — they supported me. The next day, as the teacher handed out papers for a test while complaining about a classmate who had caused her disappointment, I stood up and told her she “couldn’t speak to us that way,” and that we “deserved more respect,” and that “everyone in the class feels the same way that I do.” The other students stared at me in shock and then quickly looked as innocent as possible to avoid our teacher’s wrath. But before she could respond, I ran from the class and went to the office to share my story with the principal, who listened without interruption and then offered to walk me back to class. He stayed outside in the hallway to talk with our teacher, while the other students and I wondered what my punishment would be. Finally, she came back into the class and without a word, finished handing out the test papers. When she got to me, she slammed my paper on my desk and then moved onto the next student. From that day forward, she never slung another insult to me or anyone else in the class. She still rarely smiled and had a less than sunny disposition, but I’d like to think that I had something to do with changing the way she spoke to students in her classroom.
Standing up for your own beliefs
Fast forward 20 years, and I’m spending a summer afternoon on a friend’s boat in Southern Indiana with her and her boyfriend plus my husband and our two boys who, at the time, were two and five years old. The boyfriend asked why my kids had their toenails painted, which is something I did regularly at their request when I would paint my own nails. I knew there would be a time when someone would say something about it because society has taught many of us that nail polish is for girls, not boys. So, when he asked why they had their nails painted, I quickly responded with a simple, “because they like it,” and didn’t give him an excuse or opportunity to make the boys or myself feel weird about it.
Now, about eight years later, I still find myself questioning societal gender norms and standing up for anyone around me who finds themselves being targeted by bullying, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and anything else people use to hide behind because of their own ignorance and fear. Several months ago, I was talking with someone at church about my support for members of the LGBTQ+ community and my belief that everyone should be able to marry the love of their life, regardless of their sexual orientation. She asked me if I had a “personal relationship or someone that I knew in the community,” as if I needed to have a reason to be an ally. I told her that I didn’t but that I’ve always wanted to support and defend anyone who was made to feel less than somebody else.
The impact of your voice
In 2021, I began working at Conner Prairie where I see these same beliefs enacted daily. Last year, our organization participated in the Indy Pride parade for the very first time. On the day of the event, I felt honored to march with my family, co-workers, boss, and even our president and CEO. I’ve seen many companies use Pride month as a “box to check” and don’t really feel that the sentiment is genuine, but it was clear to me that everyone who joined us that day, truly wanted to be there in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
A few months ago, I was invited to join the board for Indy Pride, and I feel like I was experiencing a full-circle moment. The same 10-year-old who stood up to her teacher when she felt like her class was being treated unfairly and who dismissed a man who didn’t understand why boys would want to paint their nails had just been given the golden ticket; to formalize her role as an ally. Since joining the board, I have gone to the Statehouse twice to rally for transgender rights and push back against laws that would limit and stifle those in the LGBTQ+ community. Kids who are part of the community face an uphill battle with more anxiety, depression, and a staggering 45% who have considered suicide in the past year. That’s why I support the Indiana Youth Group, an organization that aims to create “safer spaces to foster community and provides programming that empowers LGBTQ+ youth and magnifies their voices.”
Get involved all year-round
There are so many ways you can get involved and show your support. It doesn’t have to just fit inside June, which is typically considered, “Pride Month.” You can volunteer for LGBTQ+ organizations like Indy Pride, Indiana Youth Group, and PFLAG. You can show your support by voting for individuals who fundamentally support LGBTQ+ rights. Attend rallies, write letters, and call your local lawmakers to make sure your voice is being heard. Lastly, you can show your support by spending money at businesses, restaurants, and stores that are LGBTQ+ friendly. Financially supporting these organizations will help fuel the cause.
And when the sun sets on June 30, I hope that more people will carry the spirit of Pride into every month that follows. Honoring each other and respecting our own individual bodies and beliefs is something that I hope we can learn to celebrate every day of the year.
About the Author
Katie Warthan graduated from Ball State University and has worked in marketing and promotion for 17 years. She lives in Whitestown, IN with her husband, two boys, dogs, cat, and snake. When she’s not working, she enjoys camping and watching the Foo Fighters in concert.