The Women's Foundation of California | What Pride Means to Me in This Moment

What Pride Means to Me in This Moment

by Surina Khan

June is Pride month and in the spirit of celebrating the progress we’ve made, we must also pause and think about how far we have to go. With the recent loss of Black trans people like Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Dominique Fells, and Riah Milton, we need to safeguard Black trans and gender non-conforming people from the violence and erasure they experience everyday and in the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. It’s important that we recognize the visionary work of Black trans people and those who are leading the LGBTQ+ movement.

  • What does “pride” mean to you?

Pride for me is about inclusion and celebrating diversity, difference and ultimately who we are. Pride is about living our lives with dignity, integrity, joy, courage, and in community with others without fear of being judged for who we are. I came out as a lesbian to my family in 1989 when I was 21 years old–which was hard for me and for my family at the time, but I remember being grounded in the values that my parents taught me– that it is important to live our lives with dignity and integrity. The following year I remember reading in the lesbian and gay paper that the Pride Celebration was going to be cancelled because the Pride Committee didn’t have enough volunteers. I remember feeling so disappointed that after I had finally come out I wouldn’t be able to celebrate my identity and so I volunteered for the Committee and we were able to resurrect the Pride Celebration that year and every year since. As a young out lesbian of color, it was really important for me to be in community with other LGBTQ people and for us to collectively express our joy in our sexual and gender identity and expression and to stand together in our power as an LGBTQ community.

  • Who are some of the queer feminists who have inspired you or helped you live out your truth?

I am inspired by so many queer feminists who came before me and paved the way for my generation. I couldn’t possibly list them all here so here are a few: Audre Lorde, whose writings inspired me to stay grounded in my values and be unwavering in my commitment to justice; Katherine Acey, one of the founders of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice who has supported me with her friendship since the the early years of my career–always listening, offering guidance and providing me with the important history of the feminist philanthropic movement; Ana Oliveira who heads up the New York Women’s Foundation and is an inspiration to me because she is a queer feminist who leads by collaborating and is steadfast in her commitment to calling attention to the importance of gender justice philanthropy; Jean Hardisty who founded Political Research Associates hired me as a research analyst in the early part of my career and was a mentor to me until her death in 2015–Jean was patient, strategic, kind, generous, and always foregrounded learning–all attributes that I aspire to everyday.

  • Can you talk a little bit about the expansion of “pride” – including transgender folks etc?

I don’t think about it as expansion since transgender people have led the way in the LGBTQ movement for decades and continue to do so. I think Pride is about inclusion and celebrating our diversity and our differences and so including and centering trans people is critical to our collective advancement.

  • How does the idea of pride provide opportunities for connection and community?

Pride provides so many opportunities for community and connection– by telling stories about our history as an LGBTQ community so that we can celebrate our past and plan for a better future. Pride allows us to come together to celebrate our wins, our culture, and each other, all of which has enormous potential to build community and connection.

  • What is the role of culture expanding the definition of pride in the next five years?

Culture is central to all our lives-it’s where we spend the most time in terms of what we watch, the music we listen to, the food we eat, and what we’re reading which means we have many opportunities to use cultural platforms to elevate gender justice and the diversity of LGTBQ people and our experiences.


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