Pride; Love beyond boundaries

As the month of June passes by, an age-old topic that lies beneath our society’s general discussions rises to the surface. Yet, as always, it is eventually dismissed and sent back to the list of taboo topics that we Sri Lankans chose not to discuss. And what is this forbidden subject? LGBTQ+ and anything and everything related to it.

What is pride?

What pride means to a person is entirely individualistic. However, all these opinions can be assembled into a common theme of acceptance and liberation. Pride celebrates individualism, standing up to anyone who shames you and being proud of who you are, regardless of your beliefs. June was chosen as LGBTQ pride month to commemorate the LGBTQ+ community, and strengthen their fight for their rights and freedom.

The origin of pride

In June 1969, when homosexuality was still a crime in the United States, the police arrived at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City to arrest anyone who was in drag clothing or as part of the gay community. Police raids were common in the past; they marginalized and inflicted pain and discomfort on those who were “different”. However, on that day at Stonewall Inn, for the first time in history, the community rallied together and fought back. Greenwich Village, as a whole, joined hands to resist police brutality and more importantly, to send a powerful message about their frustration with the status quo for LGBTQ individuals. This particular event went down in history as ‘the Stonewall Riots’ and is the historical significance behind Pride month.

The current status of LGBTQ rights in the world

Currently, the World Health Organization recognizes homosexuality and gender identities as “normal” and not a mental illness, as most of our society presumes. Moreover, gay marriage is legal in 29 countries, and each day more and more countries recognize LGBTQ individuals and are on the path to legalizing gay marriage. But on the other side of the spectrum, many countries refuse to acknowledge this subject at all, and in some, being homosexual is even punishable by death.

Status quo for LGBTQ folk in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, there are no laws that recognize or protect the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, this topic remains entirely controversial and is never discussed out in the open. Even when politicians attempt to bring it up, it is taken as a joke, and various slurs are thrown around to shun them.

The irony in this hostile attitude is that pre-colonial Srilanka had an open-minded society, where homosexuality and even concepts such as polyamory were recognized. Our nation succumbed to our current mindset in the act of being colonized.

It is important to address that being a person of the LGBTQ community is not a threat to any other community or anyone else’s beliefs. Pride is about celebrating these individuals within their community and making them feel valid in a society that constantly invalidates them. Even though the sacredness of marriage between a male and a female was used to shun those who were different, Pride does not take away the sanctity of marriage. Pride does not hurt anyone or their beliefs. Pride simply celebrates love in all shapes and forms.

Turning a new cultural leaf

Noticeably, the youth of Sri Lanka is far more progressive in terms of acceptance than the previous generations, and are more willing to understand the movement and stand up in the face of injustice. Along with globalization, our youth engage in discussions regarding these topics and have access to information that will help them sympathize and understand topics our society refuses to discuss. Furthermore, recently, we see various organizations such as Equal Ground that advocate for LGBTQ rights as well as Colombo Pride that gives the LGBT community and their allies to celebrate themselves and their love.

If you are part of the youth of our nation, combating these issues is in your hands. Our older generations fought for issues such as classism, racial issues, and female empowerment, therefore our generation must be more progressive and even more accepting. We must be the ones to spark up the discussion that will hopefully make the future safer for everyone.

What can you do as a member of the youth

Firstly, creating awareness and starting a discussion is vital in introducing progressive concepts. Educating those around us and letting them know that being a part of the LGBTQ community is neither a mental illness, nor a sin, nor is a characteristic to be ashamed of. Especially in instances such as in all-boys’ schools, the concept of masculinity is extremely toxic. Stand up for your peers if they are being bullied, because they are not “man” enough or if they like subjects that are typically considered unmasculine. Break down those barriers that have been forced among us to degrade people and make them feel worthless. Stop using terms belonging to the LGBTQ community as slurs and insults. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement such as letting your loved ones know that they are accepted, regardless of their gender, sexuality, beliefs, etc. and that these features are a part of them, but in no way make a difference in your friendship with them.

Due to the unsafe atmosphere in the status quo in Sri Lanka, to be open about one’s sexuality is risky and challenging. This environment leads to many closeted young people being scared and feels like they have no one to turn to. They are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and fear that their families will disown them the second they find out. They yearn for a home where they are loved. If you are not a part of the LGBTQ community, this may be a hard concept to grasp, but that does not justify turning a blind eye. These are your colleagues, your friends, your family, and they deserve your compassion, your protection, and most importantly, your unwavering acceptance.