At our wedding I gave a toast. “Here’s to our family and friends for coming to celebrate with us, here’s to my husband for taking this ride with me, and here’s to all of those whom came before us that never had the opportunity to openly and proudly take the ride.”
Pride month brings forth the preparation of beautiful parade floats and fun parties. It’s our chance to openly celebrate our community and have a good time along the way. While I fully recognize nothing puts a damper on a good party like talking about sad events in our history, Pride month is the perfect opportunity for us to reflect on stories of the past and even present. If we forget our history, we will forget why we fought so hard to celebrate our Pride in the first place.
At the moment I’m in Austria, the birthplace of Hitler and a country whose people and culture were vastly affected by his actions. No matter where I travel for work understanding their history and the mindsets of the people whom call this home are always on the forefront of my mind. So when given the opportunity to visit Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s social gathering space and oasis in the Bavarian Alps on the Germany/Austria border, at first, I didn’t hesitate.
I say at first because I’m always up for a trip or an excursion that will provide me with knowledge I didn’t have when I woke up that morning. It’s usually en route to the excursion that I begin to question my adventure and struggle about the visit. I’m also quite scared of heights, so asking if the excursion will be via a mountain road up to 7,000 feet probably should be asked before starting to ascend on said road. But I digress. I felt strange as a tourist visiting poor townships in South Africa. Who am I to come see how the poor are living? Here I come rolling in on a coach bus watching those around me with cameras capture the lives of those less fortunate then them. Who is getting something out of this? So pulling up to the tunnel of Hitler’s Eagle Nest, that same feeling came back over me. I was about to walk a tunnel that not too long ago a man and his followers walked themselves. Approaching the golden elevator glimpses of history came over my mind. It was almost as if I could hear the sound of the footsteps in the tunnel, feel their presence in the elevator, and that feeling of “Why am I here?” came right over me. I’m paying to see a residence that was used to make decisions to end the lives of millions of people. I’m going to watch as people pull out their selfie sticks, smile for the camera, and post on social media. I voiced my feelings to a colleague and without skipping a beat she responded perfectly, “Yes it is strange, but you know he would hate knowing all of us were here doing this.” And she was right. As the elevator door opened there we all were – all religions, ethnic groups and minority groups with our freedoms on what was once his private property.
We’ve reached this interesting point in our society where erasing anything hard from history is socially acceptable, but for me it’s history that reminds us of how far we have come. Our community has had moments in our past that are hard to relive. The Stonewall Riots, the Orlando Attacks and most recently the continued fight for our LGBT community members in areas all around the globe. But putting a blinder on our past will only impact our ability to see where we came from when heading into the future. History not only teaches us about what came before us and reminds us of the past, it provides us with incredible knowledge to make our future even better.
As we line up to watch our local Pride parade and raise our glasses at Galas and parties, let’s not forget our history, our allies, and the people within our community that worked so hard to give us Pride. So, here’s to all of our family and friends whom are supporting us today, here’s to us for not only taking the ride but holding our hands up in the air in pride, and last but not least here’s to all those who came before us who would give anything to be riding with us today. Hold your hands in the air for them and let’s celebrate.
This post was originally written for the June 2017 edition of “Options” magazine. Check out the original article and more in the “Options” archive: http://optionsri.org/archives/2017-archives/
By: Scott Tayloe, IEP Founder & Executive Director