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Pride Month celebrates survival in the midst of attacks and embracing a message of “be yourself”

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Pride Month celebrates survival in the midst of attacks and embracing a message of “be yourself”

Jun 13, 2024 | 5:59 am ET
By Chris Sanders
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Pride Month celebrates survival in the midst of attacks and embracing a message of “be yourself”
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A Pride parade on iconic Beale Street June 4, 2023 in Memphis, Tenn. (© Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht/Tennessee Lookout)

Pride celebrations have been happening for over 50 years now. When your identity and your love have faced criminalization, legislative attacks, hate sermons, physical violence and social stigma, your survival in the face of it all and the positive message of “be yourself” are worth celebrating.

The energy that drives today’s threat to the LGBTQ community is the ancient slur of corrupting youth. More specifically, accusations of “grooming” and “recruiting” youth are rampant. Of course, it is not a slur that has only been used against our community. It resulted in one of the most famous death sentences in the history of philosophy, the condemnation of Socrates. It is a charge he specifically mentions in Plato’s Apology.

Some say that one should not repeat an opponent’s accusation. But ignoring the accusation has not deterred its loudest and most persistent vocalizers. Maybe if Socrates had taken the advice of a messaging expert, he would have survived his trial. But he thought the pursuit of truth and exposing bad arguments would benefit the public even though he knew the slanders against him were likely to be fatal.

We remember that he drank the hemlock and died, but few remember how he responded to the charges.

Spectators at the 2023 Nashville Pride parade. (Photo:John Partipilo)
Spectators at the 2023 Nashville Pride parade. (Photo:John Partipilo)

The answer that Plato puts in his mouth in Apology is really illuminating and it is the response that I am compelled to take on as my own against our contemporary critics. He said that if he had been corrupting youth for so many years, surely by now some of those former youth who had since grown up would be denouncing him for his bad guidance. But they did not. Instead, they showed up to support him at his trial.

Our community has been fighting legislative attacks on LGBTQ students for many years. More recently we have been fighting attacks on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Not once in our 20+ years of working on anti-LGBTQ legislation has anyone come up to our team and said something like, “You really shouldn’t have worked against that ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill back when I was in high school.” What has happened is that younger people have left Tennessee for safer states or stayed to become involved in the fight against discriminatory legislation.

A recent Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 28% of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ. Our community is not corrupting youth. We are trying to build a world where all youth are safe and valued as they are. With those numbers, we will eventually win and our Pride celebrations will only grow.