Pride in a Time of Riots and Plague

It has been 51 years since gay and lesbian folks pushed back against yet another police raid on people minding their own business, hanging out with their friends, and most worrisome of all, threatening to dance! The crowd grew in numbers and rage, and the police were forced to take cover in the Stonewall Inn, the very bar they intended to raid. Demonstrations and unrest continued for several days. Gay and Lesbian folks were saying, “No more injustice.” Over many years, this riot, this act of “NO,” became Pride Day, Pride Week, and now Pride Month. It is now celebrated around the world (government conditions permitting).

Riots have taken over our large cities. Once again, a black man died needlessly at the hands of a white man in uniform. Pride began as a riot and ended up being a month of celebrations. The rainbow flag, now ubiquitous, came along in 1978. It also can be found around the world (conditions permitting). We can only hope the outcome of these riots will be a greater sense of freedom and justice for African American citizens.

We now are amid another plague: Covid-19. For some of my patients, Covid has ushered in long forgotten memories of the AIDS crisis: terror of infection, illness and death, loss of loved ones, and facing a very uncertain future. Large Pride celebrations have been canceled. Creative efforts at “Virtual Pride” celebrations are emerging. Not even in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis was Pride canceled.

I write this letter as a Gay man, a Training and Supervising Analyst, and President of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society. Not too long ago, this professional status would have been unthinkable. As I grew up in psychoanalysis, I watched the once small group of candidates who met at the meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association publish important works from OUR perspective. They became Training Analysts and took up leadership positions at their Institutes. The Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute has growing numbers of LGBTQ faculty and candidates. Our educational community is being enriched, not diminished.

Letters of this sort are supposed to be joyful and full of “Happy Pride!” The events of this year call for a more ponderous note. But Pride month it is, and I ask our membership to celebrate the contributions of Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender analysts to the ever-evolving theories of psychoanalysis.

R. Dennis Shelby, PhD
President of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society


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