PRIDE is a complicated word, meaning a lot of different things. For a number of members of the transgender and non-binary community, last year PRIDE led to fear and regret. Some of us were treated like side show attractions, made the butt of jokes, others touched inappropriately and without consent, and some denied the simple respect of fellow human beings. This year, I’d like to challenge the whole of our community to do better.

Hello, my name is Kat, and I am a 31 year old woman. More specifically, I am a 31 year old transwoman. Even more specifically, I am an often unemployed, 31 year old, white, designated male at birth, sapio/pan/bisexual, femme-androgynous, non-binary individual with chronic mental illness and who has the good fortune of living with her extremely supportive parents. These identifiers say a lot about me. They speak both to the oppression I face and the privilege I enjoy. They also speak to the fact that I am different in one way or another to almost everyone who reads this. As such, I cannot and will not presume to speak for an entire community. I will, however, speak up with those transgender and non-binary people who are like-minded and wanting to be heard.

PRIDE means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, PRIDE is a party, a celebration of what we have achieved. For others, like myself, PRIDE is a wake, a funeral march for those who’ve fought and died to bring us to where we are, and it is also a bolstering of support for those still fighting and dying, not just here, but everywhere around the world. It is a solemn responsibility to project and respect own our identities for the sake of people who cannot. While others may hoop and holler, we stand with stoic reflection. Neither perspective is wrong, nor are they mutually exclusive, and they should both be respected.

Some people come to PRIDE to let their hair down, get cuddly, enjoy the performances, perhaps even do a bit of people watching, and that’s wonderful. While doing so, please bear in mind that not all transgender and non-binary people are performers and that we don’t exist for you. Being outside the gender norm is not a performance; it is an identity, one that we struggle and fight for on a daily basis. Do not heckle us like we’re on a stage. (The actual performers on stage may invite heckling, in which case, do so in that space.) Don’t be offended if you ask for our story or a history lesson and we’re not inclined to give it to you. That’s what Google is for, not PRIDE. We are everywhere and amongst you in every identity. Don’t try to break our stealth or search for us, simply let us exist with you. Finally, please, please, please don’t assume that consent ceases to apply just because you’re curious, we’re different from you, and it’s PRIDE.

Don’t touch, grab, kiss, or take pictures without express permission. No means no, and more importantly, ONLY yes means yes. Respect our space and solemnity as we respect your joy and exuberance.

PRIDE is a complicated word. For some it means joy, for some it means sorrow, for others it means strength, and for more it means struggle. For a lot of people PRIDE is a complicated amalgamation of all of the above and more! The LGBTQIA community is internally diverse, full of intersections, and a shares a proud history. We must come together for all members of our broad and beautiful acronym. No matter what PRIDE means to you, remember that PRIDE also means respect, the respect that we’ve fought and still fight together hand in hand to earn.

Have a safe and happy PRIDE!