By Vanita Lokanathan MD & Sheena Howard-Lokanathan RN, BScN

Queer love is brave. As is any act of love that is unheeding of conventions and social expectations, and exists because it must, because it is an authentic expression of self.

Recent research suggests that the average age of coming out is somewhere between 17-21. It seems no accident that coming out for many people coincides with coming into adulthood – a time of achieving independence and establishing intimacy, a time to explore attitudes, values and life possibilities and develop a sense of identity. It is a time of pondering those essential questions of “Who am I?” “What do I believe?” “How will I live?”

With those questions comes the choice of whether and how to live a life that is congruent with one’s deeply felt self. The choice for LGBTQ people lies not in who we love, or what our felt gender is. The choice lies in whether we express our truth. It takes courage to live our truth and that is what Pride is about. When we celebrate Pride, we celebrate our existence, and our bravery to declare ourselves to the world as our authentic selves. At Pride, we stand too with those who are unable to live openly as they are, in support of their courage and journey.

Pride is also about raising awareness and understanding of queer existence and issues. The search for love, that basic need that we all share can be coloured for queer people with uncertainty and intolerance, and it can be difficult at times for straight and LGBTQ people to see queer love as both vibrant and viable. Pride is a window into the possibilities for all of us if we are able to accept each other as we are, and value love above all.

Pride is a time for queer folk to declare “ This is me! This is who I love. This is my family and my community. Come and join the party.” It is a time to both celebrate difference and embrace our shared humanity, to assert our right to the same inherent worth and dignity that should be accorded to all human beings. It is a time to declare ourselves free to love and live as we are, free from hatred and bigotry and intolerance.

Love, unlike hatred, takes courage. Let us all be brave and stand on the side of love.