Community Comment: Remember the Prides of June

By Pup Tripp

The Prides of June have pretty much passed. This year we came to see just how much division there is in the community. Not just the leather/kink community, but the LGBTQ+ community as well. The debates and disagreements are going to continue long after June 2017 is one for the history books – and it’s going to leave many of us asking some very difficult questions. Sometimes, it’s going to seem like it just isn’t worth it and wonder if there’s something better somewhere else…

Community Comment is an occasional column written by community members on various topics of living a leather, bear and kink lifestyle.

We all want as much of the uplifting and the positive we can get in our daily lives. We all know there’s an over-abundance of the negative and discouraging out there. Sometimes, though, the positive we need isn’t the shiny over there. It’s that glimmer of silver in the muck we’re mired in that can kindle a spark hope; that solid foothold in the quagmire that reassures us we aren’t going to drown.

That’s where we are right now. We see around us what seems to be a raging battlefield, with opinions and rebuttals being fired off like heavy artillery. It can seem daunting or overwhelming. Maybe even exasperating. However, there’s strength to be found in realizing that we are, believe it or not, right where we should be.

How can I say that, you may ask?

Quite simply, every divide and fracture we are currently seeing has been around for a long time. Go back to the earliest days of leather, even the gay rights movement, and you’ll find it. It’s been our dirty little secret all along, the one we didn’t talk about. And, when we did, it was easy to apply superficial remedies and then go back to the status quo. The community was connected only by word of mouth and a few news articles here and then. The shadows were able to flourish in so little light.

The world is a lot more connected now. Those dirty secrets can’t stay in the dark any more. Social media both shines a spotlight on them and puts them under a microscope. We can no longer deny the divides.

The question then becomes “What do we do about it?”

Now we have the opportunity to heal the fractures. But, like fractured leg, resetting it is going to be painful as hell. Even more so because the community hobbled around on those fractures for a long time. In the end, the community – like that fractured leg – will heal if we acknowledge what we need to do to make it better.

And the first thing we have to do is LISTEN. Listen to what the voices who are crying out are saying to us. The cries being raised today are the cries that were raised a year ago, 10 years ago, even 30 and 50. But those cries have kept falling on deaf ears. Cries are being raised to draw attention to the marginalization and discrimination of trans-folk and gender-nonconforming, people of color, women, people whose sexual identity isn’t necessarily predicated on the binary of gay or straight. But these are not new cries. These have been taken up by a new generation, passed down through the years until today. How can we not expect the anger and rage that’s coming out now if they’ve gone unheard for so long?

We (defined here as the community in general) had have had ample opportunity to listen all along yet failed to meaningfully do so. We – those among us who enjoy measures of privilege that others in the community do not – are the ones who need to listen. I know people have tried to draw attention to these things over the years, and I won’t overshadow by painting everyone with the same brush. But, in some measure, we’ve all played a part in what’s brought this community to where it now stands.

I’m fully aware that that is an unpopular position. Yet to not listen seems to me to continue the cycle of marginalization and victimization we’re seeing. To defend a status quo that sacrifices equality and cohesion for the sake of personal comfort only makes an already untenable situation that much worse.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We just have to start by listening. Listening to what those who are struggling in ways many of us can’t imagine need to feel safe and included. Learning doesn’t happen when we’re shouting – it happens when we listen.

So, what have we got to lose by just listening?