Asbury Park Pride


The Asbury Park Gay Pride Parade occurs every year in June. this year I went with my friends and photographed them, and also conducted a few interviews about being LGBTQ+ youth.


Lithium: What is the biggest change you think needs to be made for LGBTQ+ youth?
Jarret: More than anything, I think the normalization of non-cis/straight identities should begin at a young age if America is going to be serious about including LGBTQ+ individuals in our communities. Kids need to be shown it is okay to have two dads or to be trans, for example. As of now, I think a lot of kids are [in a bubble], and they don't get much experience with the LGBTQ+ community until an older age, and are not prepared to understand or accept these people. They react as humans tend to react to the unknown, with fear and discriminatory behavior, instead of accepting them as the very normal teenagers they are. Children aren't shown enough examples of people different from them. White, straight, and cis characters dominate children's media. Put gay or trans characters in children books, let boys play with dolls, let kids set up unconventional family structures when they play pretend. Americans should walk the walk as they talk the talk and actually let kids be “different.” Additionally, while especially important for LGBTQ+ youth, all youth and even all Americans need easy access to mental health services. Mental health is often overlooked, and LGBTQ+ youth struggle with it more than average because of the discrimination they face. Improved (and even free) access to mental health services would go a long way.

Lithium: How do you feel about Pride parades and celebrations?
Jarret: While I think the corporate advertisements with rainbow colors slapped on can feel hollow and borderline disrespectful, Pride celebrations remain important as shows of support for the LGBTQ+ community. In a world where LGBTQ+ people still face struggles and discrimination that [others] will never have to experience, I think shows of support, love, and pride for LGBTQ+ individuals is important. All young people struggle to find themselves and to be accepted, but this struggle is made even harder for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride helps to show support and remind these young people they are not alone.

Lithium: What do you like about the current LGBTQ+ community?
Jarret: From an ally's perspective, I'm glad to see some of the positive effects social media has had [on] the LGBTQ+ community. Whether through memes, poetry, or any other format, LGBTQ+ individuals are able to share their experiences and stories with one another, making it easier to foster solidarity and making it easier for LGBTQ+ individuals to see they are not alone. While the internet (and even more so, social media) age is oft-maligned, I'm glad to see LGBTQ+ individuals have been able to harness it to foster community, spread awareness, and share ideas.

Lithium: What would you like to see more of in the LGBTQ+ community?
Jarret: Again, as an ally, it’s not necessarily my place to tell the LGBTQ+ community what I'd like to see more of in any sort of critical sense. Rather, I'd say I'd like to see more of it growing, more of it gaining power, and more of it gaining acceptance. I'd love to see allies step up more. Stick up for LGBTQ+ people. When family, friends, and coworkers spew ignorance or hatred, try to correct their path. Urge them to accept and understand. It is one thing to say you support LGBTQ+ rights, but it’s another thing to challenge the systems of power that continue to oppress the LGBTQ+ community to this day. Of course, it’s not easy, and there isn't always much one can do. However, allies can't be passive, and must stand in solidarity with the community as it pushes for normalization and equality.


Lithium: How do you identify?
Jamie: [I am bisexual, and my pronouns are she/her.

Lithium: Do you think this affects your daily life? 
Jamie: In some ways yes, because I have predominantly been in relationships with men so some people in my life see my sexuality more as a phase than something legitimate.

Lithium: How about your life overall?
Jamie: Just as mentioned prior some members in my family haven’t seen my sexuality as being real.

Lithium: Does your family know?
Jamie: Most of my family, yes. I came out when I was 17 mostly because I wanted to be open. I wanted to experience coming out because at the time I was emotionally invested in a girl.

Lithium: What is the biggest change you think needs to be made for LGBTQ+ youth?
Jamie: Acceptance, inclusion, and overall representation. We still have many people closed off from terms and important things in the community, especially with Trump in office. Our community is struggling due to outside opinions and conservative views.

Lithium: How do you feel about Pride parades and celebrations?
Jamie: I think they are important. It’s more than just a parade. The pioneers of this community fought hard in riots and experienced hardships that many of us will not experience. Trans people and drag queens died [many decades ago, such as in the case of the Stonewall riots]. It’s important to honor and remember where this all originated [while] celebrating our community.

Lithium: What do you like about the current LGBTQ+ community? 
Jamie: Things are being more and more inclusive and openly discussed. There are still biphobic and transphobic people, sadly, but I’ve met more and more people who truly have an open mind.

Lithium: What do you want to see more of in the LGBTQ+ community?

Jamie: Inclusivity. Trans women of color experience extreme amounts of violence and murder, and it’s important to help people within that group.



Lithium: How do you identify?
Victoria: I identify as bisexual. I'm a cisgender female, but when it comes to sexual or romantic attraction, another's gender or sex places no boundaries on that. 

Lithium: Do you think this affects your daily life?
Victoria: I’m pretty open about not being straight, but sometimes if people I have just met in a social setting are throwing around slurs as if it's a joke or something of that nature, I do feel uncomfortable. I used to be a lot more insecure about my sexuality, but that was more internalized. Being a part of the community has impacted me in such a positive way. Pride Month always fills me with such indescribable joy. 

Lithium: How about your life overall?
Victoria: I struggled coming to terms with my sexuality as a young teenager, but now I barely even think about it. Now, being in a relationship with a male, I try to not forget about my identity and the valuable lessons it has taught me in my ongoing journey of coming out, and at the same time I feel a sense of invalidity [in] dating someone of the opposite sex. I wish more people understood your partner doesn't define your sexuality. It's something I think about a lot. 

Lithium: Does your family know?
Victoria: The only person I officially came out to in my family is my brother, and he showed me such incredible support and kindness. I believe my parents have an idea, as I've brought it up casually in the past, but they are far more tolerant than they used to be and I am thankful for that. 

Lithium: What is the biggest change you think needs to be made for LGBTQ+ youth?
Victoria: LGBTQ+ youth deserve to feel valid and safe. Most of my friends discovered their sexuality and gender identity in high school, and yet high school is the most binary, heteronormative setting a queer teenager can find themselves in. Proms, locker rooms, bathrooms—all of these have created issues for people close to me when they were under the most stress and deserved the most support and protection. Administrators need to face the fact that a GSA, even though it can and does do wonderful things, isn't where school should stop in providing resources for LGBTQ+ students. Not every student is cisgender and heterosexual, and not every student has a supportive home or social life to turn to. I’m not sure what exactly, but more should be done. 

Lithium: How do you feel about Pride parades and celebrations?
Victoria: Pride parades and festivals are always the warmest, loveliest days filled with the fondest memories for me. The energy is positive and wholesome. Groups of people who may feel outside of the "norm" gather in solidarity and [take] pride in their identities. The support is overwhelming. I adore Pride celebrations and Pride Month as a whole. 

Lithium: What do you like about the current LGBTQ+ community?
Victoria: I love how kind we are to each other. When somebody comes out, or makes a revelation about their identity, or is simply more okay with themselves than the day before, other members of the community instantly feel so proud of them and want to applaud them for their strength.

Lithium: What would you like to see more of in the LGBTQ+ community?
Victoria: I’d like to see more solidarity and less shaming among other sexualities and gender identities. We are ONE community—we need to have each other's backs. I've personally known "gold-star" lesbians who have shamed bisexual women, bisexuals who have invalidated pansexuals, and non-binary members of the community who openly have a distaste for cis members of the community. Why? There shouldn't be any shaming! We are all beautiful and brave. We love who we love and are who we are, and need to celebrate ourselves and celebrate each other.



By Sonya Alfano

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