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by Leslie Combemale
If you celebrate love, celebrate Pride. June is Pride month. In particular, Pride month is celebrated in the LGBTQ community. You’ll see parade floats and people marching, scantily-clad folk in body paint that span all types, from hirsute to tanned and shaven, some beautifully dolled up in spectacular drag, some just dressed for comfort in the heat of the day. It is a celebration. Celebrating what? It isn’t just about flamboyance, fun, and parties. Pride is about standing tall and saying to the world and to each other that the LGBTQ community can and will persevere, find courage, and fight for equal rights until all people in the world can love each other in safety, and as we are all were born to do. For that reason, Pride is for everyone. It is for our LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and family, and it is for the allies who stand up with them, so they know they are surrounded by support and acceptance, even in the midst of challenges to their rights, lives, and freedom.
Maybe you think Pride is only for them. We shouldn’t take part because it is appropriating something a part of their experience.  To them I say, they aren’t there for you. As an ally, you are there for them.  You are there to show solidarity.
We are all part of some kind of group that could be singled out. We’ve certainly seen and heard that message loud and clear in recent months. In fact, as much as there have been changes in laws in the United States, there are many who seek to discriminate again, often under the guise of religious freedom or public safety  In the rest of the world, there are countries where being LGBTQ is not only illegal and subject to imprisonment, but a crime punishable by death.
I just recently had an event with Tennessee Loveless, an artist I represent who is the official artist for Pride in Chicago this year. In the midst of our presentation, someone told him, “Come on, be honest. Being gay is a choice for you.” Now, Tennessee can take care of himself. He saw my eyes go wide, gave me a wink, and crouched down beside the person and engaged her in a chat. It isn’t like he won’t raise his voice, but he knows what occasions call for what sort of interaction. He explained to her that as a queer kid, he grew up in an environment where he was often in danger, and ultimately ran away in his teens. Tennessee is one of the lucky ones. No one celebrates his individuality or experience more, but he would not have chosen for life to be such a struggle. It’s this kind of ignorance members of the LGBTQ community face every day. It is a life requiring patience, courage, fortitude, and sometimes raw fearlessness in the face of danger.  We as allies and friends must remember that every day, but especially when June rolls around. Pride is the time to recommit to equality for everyone.

“We know that every single person on this planet is a minority in one way or another, it just depends on how you slice that pie. We all have an interest in making sure that our neighbor is being cared for, protected and respected in the same way we are, not despite their differences, but in celebration of them. We have that responsibility.” Dustin Lance Black.

I spoke to Dustin Lance Black, LGBTQ activist, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk, and director/writer/producer of the recent When We Rise. He was in town for a screening by Focus Features of Milk this week in to kick of DC Pride. He articulates better than I ever could, why Pride is important, not just for the LGBTQ community, but the world at large.
On why Milk and his message is so timely:
 It’s why I said yes to something that seems like nostalgia but it’s not.  which is that that Focus Features put together a screening of Milk to kick off DC Pride. On its face it seems like you’re looking backward, but the lessons of Milk and When We Rise are ones we need to listen to right now which are that you cannot do it on your own. One of the concerns I had when we were fighting for marriage equality I remember clearly walking up the steps of the Supreme Court a number of years ago, and worrying that we’d become so self interested that we were going to defeated. Not in marriage equality, I thought we’d win that, but in the longterm, if you lose your connection to other social justice movements, you become weak. You are a minority. You will be defeated. Milk did not get elected to public office by saying “hey, gay people, vote for me.” First he had to bring gay and lesbian people together, which he started to do but other people had to finish that job, and perhaps AIDS is what finally brought us together into being a family, then it had to become LGBTQ, and then critically the work he did and other people did in the movement, was to reach out to our allies and other social justice movements.  Milk was doing things that we need to be doing this past decade and didn’t.  Which was in his case was to reach out to racial minorities in San Francisco that were not being treated fairly at the ballot box, seniors who couldn’t afford to live in the city that they built, and union workers who couldn’t afford to put their talented kids through school. He built alliances with them. He worked as hard for them as he wanted them to work for him.  It’s what we have to do, if we want to push back against this backlash and move forward again. Milk is about a backlash.  That’s what the movie is about, how there was a backlash, and how it was defeated. When We Rise shows several of those and by design it was never about a group who were only interested in LGBTQ equality.  When you meet the main characters, they come from the black civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and they begin to address immigration and healthcare reform. That’s why I flew across an ocean to be here for this screening.
He continues by explaining how we can all fight together to help make positive changes:
 We should be able to do that in an even grander fashion than even he was able to do, because we have things like the internet now. We know that every single person on this planet is a minority in one way or another, it just depends on how you slice that pie. We all have an interest in making sure that our neighbor is being cared for, protected and respected in the say way we are not despite their differences, but in celebration of them. We have that responsibility. We know that we all exist in that way. We have to come together and work as hard for our brothers and sisters in other social justice movements as we do for ourselves, not because it’s P.C., but because it’s the way forward, and the right thing to do.
On how Pride, and activism, is both local and global:
 I think we all have to help shine a light on our brothers and sisters struggling in other movements and in other countries. We almost took it for granted in the Obama years that if something like a concentration camp opened in a place like Chechnya, a bright light would be shone on that to help expose it because that’s how you begin to rectify it. Now we realize there’s silence.  Silence from this administration. Within the LGBTQ movement here at home, some of our most vulnerable are seeing their protections pulled back: the trans community are seeing protections rolled back. We all have to stand together, and do it now.
And, ultimately, why Pride is so important, and why we should all help celebrate:
In our movement, more than almost any other, visibility is the key to liberation and silence equals death. We have to come out. Coming out isn’t just going out to parties and having fun, although I’m glad it’s a part of it, I’m glad it’s a celebration, and glad there’s a generation that finds so joy in it, but coming out is political. Coming out is about building strength. It’s about dispelling, through your own personal history, your own narrative and story, dispelling myths and lies and stereotypes. So yes they want to silence us by taking away the recognition of our plight, by taking away our stories, but that points to the solution, which is get out there, come out, get louder, get prouder, tell your story, and it’s that light shone down on those problems, both here, and around the world.
Pride if for everyone. Just know when you raise a rainbow flag this weekend or anytime, you do it in support and celebration of love.
Leslie Combemale is an international art consultant, artist representative, and owner of the successful gallery ArtInsights for over 25 years.  She is an international expert in the fields of animation art and traditionally illustrated film art, and exclusively represents an increasing number of contemporary artists worldwide.
She has developed collections for film and illustration art aficionados and fine art connoisseurs around the world, notably placing the art of famed cinema artist John Alvin. She has also acted as art director partnering with artists in a variety of genres to create images for private commissions, gallery editions, and corporate art spaces. The projects she is working on with artist Tennessee Loveless, most recently The Art Outsiders and Vox Populi, are bringing her a new level of fulfillment professionally.
She also writes and conducts interviews on a webzine focused on the animation industry, Animation, the popular site, her own, and other outlets worldwide as film critic Cinema Siren. She has been building and moderating panels at the world-famous Comic-Con International-San Diego for over 12 years. These panels serve to expand awareness of the importance of artists behind the scenes in animation and film. She also focuses on diversity and gender parity in Hollywood, and the first year of her “Women Rocking Hollywood” panel was the only one at the con to include official representatives from both DC and Marvel.
Most importantly, she thinks being a feminist is a badge of honor, not something to be ashamed of or apologetic about, celebrates her 51 years by telling her age to anyone who asks, stands up against ageism, and steadfastly holds to representing women over 40 as worthy, badass, and a force to be reckoned with. Because obviously.

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