Pride month: 'We're just showing that we exist because a lot of times, we don't.'
It’s been a rough year so far, politically speaking, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb in April signed legislation that will prohibit transgender youth from accessing medication or surgeries that aid in transition. The law also mandates those currently taking medication to stop by the end of the year.
That followed an Indiana law passed last year banning transgender girls from competing in girls school sports.
This year 14 states, most heavily Republican, have considered passing laws to ban drag shows that can be viewed by minors.
It’s against this backdrop that this year’s Pride month, which starts today, takes on special importance, says H.R. Jung, executive director of the LGBTQ Center in South Bend.
About 15 years ago, Jung said there were about five Pride organizations in Indiana. Now there are about 35.
“It really points out that LGBTQ people – trans, queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, what have you -- we exist everywhere,” Jung says. “Small towns have Pride celebrations now. Large cities have Pride celebrations. It just really emphasizes that as the attempts to legislate individuals out of public life in Indiana or around the country, we’re still here. We still exist. We’re still wanting to live our lives, day-to-day lives, just as normally and benign and uninteresting as everybody else.”
The LGBTQ Center plans a Pride month kick-off party Thursday night at The Lauber restaurant in South Bend. The musical act, “That’s What She Said,” will perform, and the center will sell Pride merchandise to raise money for the organization.
New for this year’s Pride will be a “Pride Ride” on June Tenth, organized by center’s Outdoor Club. Bicyclists off all skill levels are invited to meet at South Bend’s Pinhook Park and take a leisurely ride on a pedestrian path up to Niles for lunch before returning.
Another fun event, Jung says, should be the Cheers Queers on June 30. That’s where the center throws a dance party in a space where that doesn’t typically happen. This one will take over Cloud Walking, a coffee shop on Mishawaka Avenue in River Park.
Admission to Cheers Queers is free but a recommended $10 donation will help the center continue its services and programs, Jung says. One of its major initiatives is its youth program, which includes suicide prevention.
Social conservatives often criticize Pride month and LGBTQ advocacy efforts by saying they don’t want to hear about their sexual preference and orientation. In other words, keep it to yourself.
But Jung says it’s a basic human right to pursue and express happiness.
“Well I would also turn around and say why aren’t you saying that about people who are on social media celebrating their weddings, straight weddings? Every single time I see somebody with a wedding band, they’re shoving their relationship in my face.
“Here’s the thing: I love that. I love when people get married. I love when people have kids. I don’t begrudge them sharing that with the world. Everybody should share their happiness with the world because that just makes the world a happier place. We’re not going out of our way to shove our lives in anybody’s face. We’re just showing that we exist because a lot of times, we don’t.”
To learn more about the LGBTQ Center’s Pride month plans, go to southbendpride.org.