Courtney R. Snowden
On behalf of the D.C. Black Pride Board of Directors and volunteers, I welcome you to the Official 2008 DC Black Pride Celebration!
A new year brings with it energized leadership, exciting programmatic undertakings and new opportunities to raise funds for local non-profits working to eradicate HIV/AIDS while continuing to provide much needed services to people living with HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme — OFFICIAL: 18, Empowered and Poppin’ — reflects our goal to create a venue in which Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans and our allies come together for education, empowerment and fun.
In its 18th year, DC Black Pride continues to be an invaluable event that provides a safe and welcoming environment for our community. For some, this event is one of the few times a year where they choose to live openly and honestly. I call it substantively coming out.
When I returned home to D.C. from college, I refused to substantively come out. I said the words to my family, friends, and everyone else, but failed to live up to my own declaration. I allowed my family to accept me only on the surface. When my college girlfriend came home with me for the holidays, I struggled with how to interact with her in this new environment.
Rather than confront this situation head on, I actively worked at making sure my family and friends were comfortable. My girlfriend and I weren’t affectionate at all — not even at a level that would have been acceptable for my straight (but not narrow) brother and sister. Some will argue that I was merely being respectful of my parents and my family. Others will say that what I do in my bedroom is no one’s business, but who I love and how I love isn’t limited to what happens in the bedroom.
As Black LGBT people, when we choose to make those around us ”comfortable,” we choose to hide the best parts of ourselves and our lives. We give our friends, our families, our fellow church members, our sororities and fraternities an opportunity to turn a blind eye to the reality of our relationships and ultimately, our individual humanity. Importantly, though, we also make it easier for these people to walk to the ballot box and vote against our rights and for anti-gay candidates.
Our relationships and our value will only be acknowledged when we demand it, but too many of us have adopted a personal policy of ”don’t ask, don’t tell.” We have chosen to hide the very best that we bring to the table, and the harsh reality is that remaining closeted won’t exempt us from housing and employment discrimination. It won’t get us closer to full marriage equality, and it won’t guarantee acceptance in the black church or from our families. Resting comfortably in the closet will not improve our quality of life!
It is imperative that we come out, and we must do so substantively. We have to do more than say it out loud. We must also live out and proud to create a welcoming and affirming world.
Take the energy, excitement, and empowerment of the weekend back to your communities. Make it OFFICIAL — let the world know that you are perfect just the way you are!
Happy DC Black Pride!
Courtney R. Snowden
Black Lesbian & Gay Pride Day, Inc.