**FILE** Courtesy photo

The month of June has come and gone and with its departure, only memories remain of the numerous activities related to Pride Month.

For those who may be unaware, Pride Month represents that time each year when Americans celebrate the lives and contributions of those who represent the LGBTQ community. And while cities like D.C. could not hold their highly-anticipated parades, parties, high heel races and other activities, the show did go on, albeit on a smaller scale.

As an advertisement for Virginia Slims cigarettes proclaimed back in the 70s, weve come a long way, baby. And indeed, for those who are part of the LGBTQ family, there are many reasons to celebrate.

Gone are the laws that forced gays and lesbians to live in the closet with fear. Medical advancements have made it possible to contract the HIV virus and still anticipate enjoying decades of a full and fruitful life. In some parts of the nation, its even possible for same-gender couples to marry or adopt children.

Still, there remain many Americans who look down on those who chose to live their lives and follow their destinies with alternative lifestyles. Challenges and threats lodged against those who are transgender have increased, often including heinous acts of violence.

Its still not safe to be gay in America.

Some members of the LGBTQ community still cannot freely worship in the churches, synagogues or mosques that have long empowered and sustained their families because of discrimination.

Thats why Pride Month and its related activities was first proposed decades ago. And thats why they are still important and necessary, particularly for younger Americans who wrestle with their sexual identity and seek to embrace the person they feel they were born to be.

As a little boy, I remember my mother, an elementary school teacher, sharing a song with me and her pupils which said, Im proud to be me. But I also see. Youre just as proud to be you.

I have always believed that this song and its lyrics were almost prophetic. After all, we all deserve the right to be ourselves, no matter how different that choice may be from the choices made by others.

If James Brown could lead us in shouting, Say it loud, Im Black and Im proud, then why cant those who are part of the LGBTQ community shout similar refrains?

Make no mistake. Being gay is not an easy path to follow or lifestyle to embrace. Sometimes, it’s far easier to stay in the closet with our shirts and suits.

And yet, despite the ridicule, the rebuke, the dangers, the hatred, the ostracizing that are often part and parcel to being LGBTQ, men, women and children who live that reality refuse to be deterred.

Thats what Pride Month has long represented lifting up those rare tales of victory amidst a much larger narrative of hatred, sorrow and death.

So, happy Pride Month to all.

Lets not forget, were all Gods children and are all worthy of being respected even if the flag you wave is one thats rainbow-colored.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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