Pride is about being who you are, and not being afraid to show it.
I am where I am today because of the sacrifices made by countless others over decades to secure our rights, open doors, be at the table and not accept “no” for an answer.
Amidst Pride Month’s celebrations and events, I think about myself in my 20s when I was struggling to come out. I think about the real fear I had that I might lose my family and live my life alone. That my parents — conservative, God-fearing folks — would reject my need to live and love as my authentic self because of how different that was from their vision for me.
Thinking about that time then and where I am now is remarkable.
I have been blessed with many things during my short time as mayor and in the year since I announced my campaign. I have seen how endlessly fortunate we are to live in a city that shines as a beacon of hope for individuals of every conceivable background to live their authentic lives — not just men and women in the suburbs, but across the Midwest and the entire United States.
But one of the things that’s most precious to me is the parents who say, “thank you.”
“Thank you for being a beacon of hope to my child who has just come out to me.”
“Thank you for being a role model for my son or daughter who is struggling, but sees you as an example of the kind of life that they can live.”
Those conversations usually take place off to the side and in private moments, and I am overwhelmed to know the difference our existence and support has made— and continues to make — in the lives of young people across our city.
As it turned out, the fears I had of my own parents rejecting me didn’t come to fruition. Instead, it was quite the opposite. Yet, despite the happy results of my personal experience and how far we’ve come as a culture, our journey is far from over.
Pride is a time to celebrate who we are and our accomplishments as a community, but it’s also a time to remember the work that remains in creating a more just and equitable city.
There are still too many LGBTQ+ youth on our streets, struggling because they have no place to go. This is particularly true for our young people of color who have been rejected by their families and desperately need our shelter, love and support. Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters in the trans community continue to suffer intolerable levels of discrimination and violence.
We also need to extend our hand to other communities who are under attack and terrorized with fear by the same forces of darkness that had kept our LGBTQ+ men and women in the shadows for so long.
It’s for all of them that we must keep fighting and do the work — the hard work — of speaking loudly and clearly with our values of love, especially when we see hate rear its ugly head.
My story is proof things can get better. To anyone who still feels fear because of who you are: Chicago is with you. And as long as I am mayor, I will work tirelessly to ensure that our city remains a beacon of hope and continues to be a place where every person — no matter who they are — can walk down the street unafraid and proud, holding the hand of the person they love.
I am humbled every single day by our city’s residents and the personal opportunities I’ve been given, and look forward to joining Chicagoans across every neighborhood, community and background as we continue this incredible journey.
Lori Lightfoot is the 56th mayor of Chicago, elected on April 2, 2019.
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