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The Pride and Power of Our Story

June 16, 2023

There’s a point at every Pride—amidst the shimmer of glitter tossed into the humid air, and the cacophonous hum of laughter and song—when the whispers of the past compel one to stand still, listen, and see the ghosts of ancestors who marched, bled, and danced for freedom. They remind us that Pride is, above all, a protest born from queer, gender-diverse people—many Black and Brown—fighting against brutality and systemic oppression. They remind us that liberation is intersectional and built through solidarity amongst movements. And their actions teach us that joy is our greatest resistance against oppression, and making our stories known is our most potent weapon against omission. 

My name is Michael Dumlao, my pronouns flow fluidly like gossamer silk between “he” and “they” and, as a proud, gay Filipino immigrant, I owe my life and livelihood to the power of stories to create change. Alongside my role as Abt’s Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications, I am a drag artist named Nuancé, a baritone in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, and an author of narratives about LGBTQ+ experiences that history would otherwise discard and hide away. When performing with the Chorus, I stand on a stage filled with hundreds of LGBTQ+ artists committed to raising our voice and telling our stories, precisely because there are many who share our lived experiences who cannot. 

When I write and reflect on Pride, I am reminded that an entire generation of our queer forebears died of a disease that governments failed to address quickly and effectively. Generations more died at a time when illuminating their truth branded targets on their backs. Indeed, if our LGBTQ+ histories teach us anything, it is that queer people know what it means to live life to the fullest, as if there is no tomorrow, precisely because for many LGBTQ+ people there was no tomorrow. And it continues to be the case for too many today. 

From the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ+ (and specifically anti-Transgender) agendas sweeping the U.S., to countries making homosexual and gender-diverse identities criminal and punishable by imprisonment and death, we are reminded that our rights and privileges remain embattled, fragile, and hard-won. But we have learned that movements are driven by stories that create visibility, empathy, and allyship. Each “coming out” story—whether told at a family dinner table or broadcast across the media—creates undeniable proof that we are resilient. And when we gather with those whose truths mirror our own, others who persisted despite religious, political, and cultural forces that seek to destroy us, we create a community and reclaim a story that cannot be eradicated. 

Therefore, during this Pride season, I ask us to seek out and amplify these stories. The stories of queer families—especially those with transgender children—trying to protect their agency and safety. The stories of drag queens and gender-creative artists who are threatened with jail simply for bringing joy with their craft. The stories of BIPOC members of our community grappling with systemic racism, of immigrants living in constant displacement, and of women fighting to reclaim their bodily autonomy. The stories of queer people living with new threats of imprisonment and death for simply existing. We owe it to our ancestors, those who dance amongst us amidst the beats and the glimmer. And we owe it to our future, the one built on the stories we live each day.

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