Freedom ’17: What freedoms can we celebrate this PrideFEST season?

Freedom (ˈfriːdəm), noun

  1. The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

synonyms: right to, entitlement to; privilege, prerogative, due

  1. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

synonyms: liberty, liberation, release, emancipation, deliverance

I have been mulling over the theme of this year’s PrideFEST and it got me to thinking. Often (and now maybe more than ever) a lot of the discussion we hear about being LGBTIQ+ is focused on freedoms we don’t have – and rightly so. We should be shouting from the rooftops until equality in all forms, for all LGBTIQ+ people, is reached. This is the shouting we need to direct outside of our community, letting our allies (and those who are not-quite-yet-our-allies) know of the work that needs to be done to combat discrimination and ensure that our laws, systems, cultures, hearts and minds are free from discrimination.

But what about the conversations we need to have within our community? Why don’t we turn our focus to the positive things about being LGBTIQ+ and, and the freedoms our identities afford us?

Freedom from heteronormative ideals

Perhaps you’re not so pressured to follow the heteronormative formula of “get job, get house, get married and have kids” (although you might want to). This kind of pressure is what cis/straight people freak out about all the time. Will they have the marriage and kids by x age? What does it say about them as a person if they don’t? Have they ‘failed’ as an adult? Many LGBTIQ+ people don’t have that same kind of pressure in the same way, giving us the freedom of space to think of other ways of living.

Many people reach places in their lives where they might want to tread a different path, but they feel stuck and change seems too much of a risk. LGBTIQ+ folks typically have had to recreate and/or reimagine our lives to align with our true identity and/or gender, and as part of that process have had to look critically at our cultural assumptions about what it means to live a good life. This process gives us the freedom to make different and informed choices about ourselves, our lives and relationships. Non LGBTIQ+ folks usually have the same freedoms to be chose unusual paths or to change themselves, but they often aren’t as aware of their freedoms as we have had to be.

Through many years of self-reflection and many conversations I am able to be true to myself and I do not fear any social or cultural expectations of how I *should* behave other than being a general compassionate human being. How freeing is that!?!

Freedom from binaries

Oh, the freedom to think (and live) outside of the box! To know that there is more than just gay and straight, more than those ridiculous M and F boxes, more than just being single or monogamous. The freedom to know that sex, sexuality and gender identity exist on a spectrum-  that we can move up down and all-around on that spectrum as we go through life, and that we can have any kind of relationship structures that we like.

Talk about a buffet of life experiences. Be gone cis-hetero with your incorrect and harmful ideas about binaries, You have no power here!

Freedom from the outdated concepts of rigid gender expression and gender roles

You mean I can wear what I like, say what I like, act how I like, chose the name that I like, do what I like, chose the pronouns that I like, date who I like and basically like what I like? Get out of town! Sign me up to the LGBTIQ+ fan club immediately. When the interaction of your relationships and identities gives you the freedom from the expectations of what a boy/girl/relationship is and how it looks, you get to make the rules (and break some as well).

When you’re young, doing things differently might not be all that cool. But when you’re older, it can be absolutely liberating. 

Freedom of self-exploration

Being part of the LGBTIQ+ community has not only enriched my life and my experiences but it’s made me more open-minded. Exploring my own identity and continuing to learn about the wide spectrum of sex, gender and sexuality as well as examining bi/trans/homo/intersex phobia has lead me to reflect on my own internalized homophobia and affected how I see myself and my society. This has given me the freedom  and luxury to go on a perpetual and incredible journey of self-discovery that I am not sure I would have even started had I not been queer.

Freedom of family

“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” WRONG!!! As LGBTIQ+ people we get to choose what family looks like for us and create the types of families that we need. The friends I have now are my family.  When you have been through a war with your LGBTIQ+ community you feel so connected and close in ways that are fundamentally different to your relationships with the families unto which you were born. You also have the interconnected family of the LGBTIQ+ community as a whole, an extended family of elders and down-right amazing people who have come before us.

We get to choose the ways that we create the next generations of our families and we also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our finned, feathered, furred and otherwise covered animal babies are included in this definition of family. Viva ‘la Fur baby!

Freedom to recognize our privilege

Having faced discrimination, and being committed to a lifetime of self-reflection and learning, I can better appreciate the privilege that I do have and the difficulties faced by those who are denied a variety of privileges and equality that I have access to. I have a greater degree of empathy others, what they deal with, how they feel and the difficulties and obstacles they overcome and face. Having the knowledge of my privilege and working to understand intersectionality is truly a freedom that I am grateful to have.

There is a whole lot of freedom that comes along with it is impossible for you to be what is generally expected. By this definition, as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community I have freedoms that I strive to remember and appreciate every single day. So, when we celebrate PrideFEST this year let’s be proud of the freedoms we are afforded just by being our own awesome selves.

“I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I told you so
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone else I’ve got to be”- Freedom ’90, George Michael.

Bella Broadway

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