Richard Swerdlow: Still Proud

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

There are no Pride celebrations this June, but Richard Swerdlow is still proud.

It's June, Pride Month. In a non-pandemic year, San Francisco would be a whirl of Pride events film festivals, rallies and parties with dress codes from black tie to clothing optional. All month the city would be filled with rainbow flags and a feeling of celebration, culminating in the Pride parade along Market Street the last weekend of June. San Francisco Pride is the largest gathering of LGBT people in the nation, hosting 100,000 participants and spectators.

But this June, like everything else, it's canceled.

I didn't think I'd mind since I don't usually attend the Pride parade. I've been out for 40 years. My life is not as glamorous as gays on TV, who seem to be either sequin-clad drag queens or fabulously handsome guys drinking fabulous cocktails. Like most gay people I know, my daily life is surprisingly unfabulous. I live with my husband, go to work, hang with friends and family, shop for groceries. The most shocking thing about most gay people is how normal our lives actually are, and I didn't feel the need for a month to tell me it's okay to be gay.

But this year, I'm surprised to find I miss Pride.


Amid the sparkles and disco music, it's easy to overlook the history of Pride month. But a year with no Pride has me thinking of that first 1969 Pride at Stonewall, where LGBT people fought back against police brutality, a protest that resonates deeply these days. As the world changed, Pride went from a protest to a parade, but the first Pride was a riot.

So, Pride is among the myriad of losses this virus has inflicted. I didn’t know I’d miss it, but I do. I miss knowing Pride is there for LGBT people who remain locked in the closet, who need to see they are not alone, that the world has space for them. I miss knowing Pride is there to send a glittery rainbow message to those 12 countries where, in 2020, being gay is still punishable by death.

It's Pride month. And pandemic or not, parade or no parade I'm still proud.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.