The early bird catches the worm. One month before the PRIDE month June officially starts, I can proudly report that our this year's PRIDE collection 2023 is now already available in the store.
With PRIDE the chapter of my store started about a year ago. And it couldn't be more obvious, since PRIDE is a big and important part of my personal identity. That's why PRIDE means so much more to me than just making and selling beautiful designs with rainbows. It is an attitude, a vibe, a way of life, and most of all freedom. Freedom to be who you want to be, to love who you want to love, beyond any gender boundaries.
Today more than ever
The history of PRIDE is probably as old as mankind itself. For us people in current times, the events of June 28, 1969 in New York are most likely the reason why PRIDE exists today (which is why the official PRIDE month is in June every year).
At that time, gays and lesbians, who were constantly discriminated against in society for their kind, stood up united for the first time to stand up against the violence and oppression. Since then, thousands of PRIDE events like Christopher Street Day have taken place around the world every year.
Worldwide? Unfortunately, no!
And even though you might think that the issue from back then is not as relevant today, it still remains a major social issue. There are still quite a few countries in the world today where people from the PRIDE community are not accepted, where they are imprisoned and even killed for being who they are.
And as a gay man living in Germany, who has been openly outed for 24 years, the issue of social acceptance is still not off the table. And in my opinion, not that much has changed fundamentally in those 24 years honestly.
Sure, we can get married now, we can adopt children, and we can live more or less normal lives. But they do exist, those moments of rejection, contempt and, unfortunately, amusement.
Was it better in the past?
Compared to today, I was rather a late bloomer. I've always known that I'm special. But as a teenager in the 90s, it wasn't common practice to simply come out like that. There weren't any role models too. Every now and then you would see a gay person on TV, and there was certainly no talk about such topics within the family. When I was at school, it would have been unthinkable to come out to my classmates.
So it was a creeping process that rapidly picked up speed when I met a lesbian through friends who, like me, was relatively new to this "scene". But, at least we weren't alone anymore and could start this journey into the LGBTQ world together.
Bars, restaurants, clubs, etc., there were fortunately a few here in Stuttgart. Always easy to find by the rainbow flag near the entry. It was a small, albeit hidden, but still very beautiful world that influenced me significantly in my development as a young, gay man.
Of course, not every experience was good and some acts were anything but sensible, but if you wanted to know who you actually were, what you liked, what you were into, I had to look at everything first.
My first parade
When it came to my first Christopher Street Day parade in 2000, I was happy and excited like a little boy. There had been an indescribable euphoria in the city for days. So much love, so much freedom. In the meantime, my style had also changed completely. From stuffy bourgeois to a little bird of paradise with glitter and color in my hair. And so I was dancing through the city in a skirt on a truck. I cheered, I sang, I waved to the people on the side of the road. At some point my eyes fell on a window of a house. There stood a little girl, maybe 8-9 years old. When I looked up, her mother put her hand in front of her eyes so that the little girl could not watch us.
At that moment I realized for the first time that my new, colorful, perfect world was not so perfect after all. At the end of the parade, everything perfect left was completely eliminated. While I was walking towards the train station, I crossed the parallel demo of a very right-wing oriented party. It was definitely not a coincidence that this took place on the same day. And when I saw the protesting men and women, mainly with bald heads and leather boots, I only wanted one thing: to get away, as fast as possible.
Even today, these incidents still bug me. Sure, it was a different time. But if you look back over the last few years, PRIDE still offers far too much controversy, in my opinion.
Commerce vs. solidarity
From One Love pads at soccer, to attacks on gay nightclubs in the USA. And all this in a time that should be so much more advanced than it was 24 years ago. And every year each x-any company, which has to do basically purely nothing with PRIDE, means to let their logo shine in rainbow colors, in order to show some marketing effective solidarity. Or the rainbow flag is hoisted at the city hall. Whether actions like this are really solidarity, or simply marketing and commerce, may be up to everyone. Inclusivity goes beyond the rainbow flag, right?
If you imagine that 24 years ago you had to search quite hard to get a car sticker in rainbow colors, while today a Google search or Amazon is enough to equip yourself PRIDE-wise. Access to the Internet & Co. certainly has its advantages. To get to know someone who is like-minded, a swipe is enough. You don't even have to do your hair and glam up for that ;-)
If PRIDE, then authentic
However, most people also realize that with the commercialization of PRIDE, there is a great deal on offer, but it is still worth taking a look behind the scenes. What is marketing, and what is true authenticity?
During Corona and lockdowns, we saw the importance of shopping local to support small retailers and stores. And the same is equally true for PRIDE. If you buy a PRIDE shirt at a outlet store today, it may look like PRIDE visually, but what's behind it? Cheap production, generic designs from Asia without any real reference, no authenticity at all. So ask yourself, what does such a PRIDE shirt do for the community?
The real PRIDE feeling
I also buy PRIDE inspired products myself, from deodorant to drinking straws. And yet, I try to buy PRIDE sustainably, too. From small businesses run by members of the LGBTQ community. One look at a store's bio or "About Us" page is enough to convince yourself of its authenticity. Every purchase in such a store supports the community and the person behind it, who puts a lot of work and heart and soul into PRIDE and understands what they are doing.
And I am quite honest, I love to wear my PRIDE products on the street. Watching the faces of oncoming passersby as they try to read the word PRIDE in the logo.
Wearing my own designs does something to me. It gives me so much power and confidence. And most importantly, a good feeling. The good feeling of representing myself and the community to the outside world in a worthy way, and being proud to be who I am.
That's what I want to communicate with my products, my store and with myself. And I really hope that that comes across out there on all the channels I'm on. I'm not forcing the issue on anyone. If you don't like PRIDE, you can unfollow me at any time. But if you follow me and buy from me, you can be sure that you are making a real, authentic contribution to PRIDE.
And believe me, that feeling is awesome
Enough about myself and my experiences with PRIDE. I'm very interested in your view of things. How do you deal with PRIDE?