My search for the queer headquarters began when I dropped my rainbow ring in the bathroom at language school. I got it for $8 off Amazon about a year ago, and I am honestly surprised it lasted this long. Still, I was saddened. We were in the middle of a unit on family vocabulary, and, unsurprisingly, all the examples used in class to help us learn were incredibly hetero normative. My ace ring and my rainbow rings were small, subtle ways for me to say that I was different, outward displays that I could glance at and think, “I’m proud of myself, and I don’t need to change.” My damaged ring got me thinking about seeking out pride events and patronizing booths with pride merchandise. While I have been enjoying language school and meeting so many people from so many different cultures, many of the cultures these people come from aren’t the most open minded, and the higher-ups at the school heavily cater to traditional ideas – gender roles and traditional family dynamics, namely – most likely in order to avoid offending anyone. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but I suppose I do understand it. Being in this kind of environment five days a week for four hours a day, finding a space where I could be openly myself and meet others who think in similar ways sounded marvelous. After consulting Google, I discovered that there was going to be a pride parade on the 23rd and 24th. While the linguistic gymnastics required to register to walk in it were just too exhausting to consider, I definitely wanted to watch from the sidelines and be a friendly face. I looked at the CSD Freiburg site, and with my limited German I picked out that the parade would begin at two in the afternoon and that Innenstadt would be part of the route. So, I supposed if I walked down Innenstadt after two I would eventually encounter the parade. I ended up not leaving my apartment until three, but as soon as I got into down town I saw a guy with a partially covered rainbow sticker on his shirt and I assumed I was going in the right direction. The fact that this guy felt the need to cover a rainbow sticker outside of a pride even stuck out in my; later, when I saw another rainbow sticker on a street light, I realized the reason he might have been covering it.
(I apologize, I tried to insert a picture, I don’t know if it will should up, said picture is of a sticker on a street light with a rainbow background and it says ❤ Pen**)
I proceeded down Innenstadt and continued to see a plethora of Christopher Street Day posters and felt reassured that I was going in the right direction. I passed by a Turkish restaurant that I had visited during my first week in Freiburg and quickly realized that I was starving. The first time I visited said Turkish restaurant I utterly butchered the name of the dish I was trying to order, and when I was asked what number it was on the menu, I suddenly forgot how to say 79 in German (it's insanely easy – neunundsiebzig, which literally means nine and seventy in English) so, I said some gibberish word that I can't recall at the moment, the cashier gave a confused look and asked, "Neunundsiebzig?" It took everything in me not facepalm and run out of the restaurant I was so embarrassed. So, I stopped there again and was able to order in German without any problems, which was extremely satisfying, and while I was eating a two girls came into the restaurant, one of whom was wearing a rainbow shirt. At this point, after seeing the guy with the rainbow sticker, a plethora of posters and stickers on lampposts, and now the girl in the pride merch, I was getting to the point where I wanted to cry out, "Someone, lead me to the quuuueeeeeerrrrr!!!!" Alas, while I am wild in my head, I am boring and socially anxious in my behavior. I just smiled at the pride merch wearer and thought I was getting closer. I walked for twenty minutes more, and at this point I was beginning to think that Innenstadt was only part of the route, that the parade must have taken a turn somewhere – where, exactly, I had no clue. I saw a poster advertising the "official" pride party, and thought that at least I could go to that. I stopped at Starbucks on the way there and encountered a group of college age girls wearing copious amounts of highlighter and assumed they were going to a college party – Freiburg is a college town, after all, and there was bound to be numerous parties bigger than the pride party, I thought. I had gone to Mensa – the University of Freiburg owned restaurant where the party was being hosted – before and found it again easily, but I was not anticipated the entire three floors of the building to be full of inebriated people. I saw that judging on noise level and the obviously intoxicated people running around outside the building. I had pictured a smallish, outdoor gathering in my head and I was sadly mistaken. It was really surprising to me how big of a thing Pride seems to be in Germany, and I was simultaneously pleased and disappointed. A friend of mine who lives in San Francisco and has gone to Pride events once told me that it's essentially become just an excuse for people to party and get drunk. While the LGBTQIA community desperately needs allies, it seems like Pride has become just another party, just another source of entertainment for many straight, cis-gendered people. I am in NO WAY trying to put anyone down, if you are a straight, cis-gendered individual and attend Pride events from a place of genuine support, thank you, this is just a behavior pattern that I and some people close to me have noticed. Well, in the end, I found the "queer headquarters" of sorts, and I saw what I believe was the tail end of the parade, a bicycle draped with a pink feather boa with a rainbow flag taped to the back. Having seen the possible tail end of the parade and having found the queer headquarters, I didn't feel like the day had entirely been wasted. Honestly, just seeing the people in Pride gear and seeing all the posters, knowing that there was a place in the city where differences were being celebrated lifted my spirits after a difficult week. Going into a raging party full of intoxicated Germans who I couldn't properly communicate with didn't sound appealing, and walking back to my apartment, I noticed something about the posters that I hadn't before, the line at the top that said, "The first (gay)pride was a riot." That really struck a cord with me. Fifty years ago, queer people had to riot in the streets in order for their voices to be heard. In many western cultures, support of the LGBTQIA community is not unanimous, and hate crimes, particularly for the transgender community, are still a problem, but there are laws that recognize sexual and gender minorities and give them voices, however small. There is still a long way to go, particularly for the QIA part of the community, and that needs to be remembered, as well as the fact that people many people around the world are still intensely suffering due to innate parts of their being. Gay relationships are still criminalized in 72 countries around the world, eight of which have the death penalty as punishment. Even in countries where gay marriages are recognized, queer youth are being kicked out of their homes after coming out to their parents, and lesser known minorities are erased and ridiculed due to ignorance and lack of proper education. It is heart breaking how many stories I've encountered online of asexuals being sexually assaulted or "correctively raped" in the hope that it will change them. Yes, allies should definitely come to Pride events, and it is important to not make assumptions about perceived "straight couples" at Pride events, as the people in question could be trans, heteroromantic aces, etc. I recently watched a very entertaining YouTube video, "Who is Welcome at Pride", below is a link if anyone is interested.
Yes, everyone is welcome, and yes, Pride should be a time of celebration, but it should also be a time to remember all the people who have suffered so we could get to this point, remember that, for some, it is only in these types of spaces that they feel safe being their 100% unfiltered selves, remember all the people who are still suffering at home and around the world.