This Year Pride Matters More Than Ever

By David Furnish

The unspeakable tragedy in Orlando, in the midst of Pride Month, has shaken the LGBT community to the core. Pride Month is a celebration of who we are and how far we've come. How can we celebrate after 49 of our brothers and sisters were murdered in cold blood? How can we march with tears in our eyes and pain in our hearts?

The attack at the Pulse nightclub is a tragic reminder of why Pride matters. It's a reminder that the pink triangle was proudly reclaimed by our community from its origin in Hitler's death camps. It's a reminder that the Pride movement was founded in the wake of Stonewall. It's a reminder that for the past half-century, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have responded to violence and hate with unrelenting love.

Love is the bedrock of our community and the source of our strength and progress. Pulse itself was founded as an act of love. Barbara Poma opened Pulse 12 years ago to honor her brother, a gay man who died of complications from AIDS. She wanted the club to embody the energy of his life and, more than anything, to serve as a place of love and acceptance for the LGBT community. It did that, and more. Pulse became a refuge, a place of community.

Growing up in Toronto, I found solace and safety in clubs like Pulse and in the people who gathered there. In certain parts of the United States, community gathering places like Pulse are the only safe spaces for LGBT people. For that reason, they often evolve to serve more than their original purpose. Nightclubs like Pulse become hubs for HIV prevention, breast cancer awareness, immigrant rights, and LGBT advocacy work.

Particularly in the fight against HIV and AIDS, which is inextricably tied to the Pride movement, the LGBT community's compassionate response has achieved extraordinary results. By loving people who use drugs instead of denigrating and stigmatizing them, we are more likely to prevent HIV and help people build the lives they want. By embracing HIV-positive people, we short-circuit the stigma that fuels the epidemic. By loving and fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants, or by shouting with pride that Black Lives Matter or that women's rights are human rights, we are creating a world where an end to AIDS is possible.

If the success of the Pride movement has taught us anything, it's that the only way to stop the hate, to stop the killing and the dying, is with love, compassion, and respect. We've seen, time and again, how compassion makes our community stronger and healthier. That's why today, in the wake of horrendous tragedy, and every day, we must press on with our work to show the world that we are as vibrant, united, and proud as ever. We must continue to be agents of tolerance, compassion, and dignity, even -- especially -- in the face of evil.

It's so easy to hate. It's easy to hate people who you don't really know. It's easy to hate people who look different, who pray different, who love different. But we cannot give into the hate. Differences don't matter. We're all human beings. We're all Orlando.

That's the truth we celebrate during Pride Month, and it's why now, more than ever, Pride matters. Hate took the lives of our family and friends. Love is how we must honor their memory.

David Furnish is the chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This op-ed originally appeared in The Advocate.
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