Ryan Roschke is an editor at POPSUGAR.
Here at POPSUGAR, we strive to create a diverse and inclusive company culture. We celebrate our differences and aim to depict the full breadth of the human experience, both inside the walls of our offices and in the content on our sites. This June, in tandem with LGBTQ Pride Month, we have launched an essay project to give voice to a community that has historically been silenced and marginalized.
I pitched this project in hopes of starting a larger conversation about what “pride” means in 2017. I wanted to tell as many stories as possible, to explore any and all points of view from individuals of all identities, genders, sexualities, races, ages, and backgrounds. My passion project quickly became a company-wide effort.
There is a remarkable power in that space and in all the others that sweep across the nation every June. It’s that power that flowed into a single brick and ignited the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969.
On a personal level, my journey with LGBTQ Pride Month has been tumultuous. Until very recently, I felt jaded about the concept as a whole. My first Gay Pride Parade was in 2009 in West Hollywood. The experience was intoxicating, that much is undeniable. I felt as though a space had been carved into the earth for me. Walking past the first metal barriers felt like passing through a membrane. On the other side, I was invincible and uninhibited. There is a remarkable power in that space and in all the others that sweep across the nation every June. It’s that power that flowed into a single brick and ignited the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969.
Over the years, however, Pride lost its luster for me. I let my negative perceptions take over. I felt bothered by cisgender and heterosexual individuals who used this sacred space as a big party, where they could wear everything rainbow and get all shades of wasted. I sensed a shift in the way I perceived the celebration. My own Pride weekends became less about making myself visible and more about who I would make out with, what parties I would go to, and who had inexplicably excluded me from their plans.
On June 12, 2016, a monster walked into Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and killed 49 innocent people. The next day was the Pride Parade in Los Angeles.
I felt numb. An outpouring of sorrow and rage on Facebook told me how to feel before I could thaw out of my own stupor. I did know one thing, though. I would f*cking go to Pride. I would be unapologetically gay, and I would not be scared. I knew I had a certain privilege in attending Pride in LA; this is a liberal city, and the police presence had been stepped up in light of the attack. I knew I was risking much less than my brothers and sisters who were being out and proud in the more conservative parts of the country, but it was important to me to be seen that day.
That catastrophic terror marked a huge cultural shift within the LGBTQ community. We came together, millions of people across the nation, to mourn. And when we were done mourning, we decided to stand up, dust off, and march on. I find great optimism in the resilience of my brothers and sisters. I have great faith in all members of this community; for every hurdle we encounter on this long road, we find the energy to leap over.
We are determined to exist.
This year, POPSUGAR takes action. We celebrate every member of the LGBTQ community, and I hope this project helps illuminate that. I’m truly excited to share the collection of stories, essays, thoughts, beliefs, and declarations we’ve collected. Notable LGBTQ-identifying celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner, Brad Goreski, and Daniel Franzese share their experiences in the Hollywood spotlight. Representative Park Cannon speaks about bringing HIV awareness to the state of Georgia. Transgender men and women like Rae Tutera and Rain Valdez talk about their own struggles with visibility and identity. Zackary Drucker provides an unbelievable account of an icon named Flawless Sabrina. We’re spotlighting nearly 50 different stories that all represent the same journey: to live an authentic, unbridled life.
We live in a world where horrific things keep happening. Chechen gay men are being thrown off of buildings, and transgender women of color are being murdered on the streets. But I find power in the waking nightmares my brothers and sisters have already survived. The AIDS epidemic, the fight for equality, the countless deaths and beatings and riots and protests, all because we are determined to exist. The purpose of this project is to prove exactly that.
There will always be hurdles to leap over, but I have faith that we will always find the energy to jump. I want to tell our stories, to inspire hope in other members of the LGBTQ+ community. I want us to remember where we’ve been and what we’ve survived. I want us to look forward to brighter times ahead. The goal here is directly in line with what the goal has always been. In the face of adversity, we get louder.