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Love Has No Labels: What I Learned From This Year’s Pride Festival

The concept of hate towards the LGBTQ community is unfathomable.

Published: July 5, 2016 9:05 PM IST

By Tania Rahman


New Yorkers who rose early on the Sunday morning of June 26 were rewarded with blazing sunshine painted across a crisp blue sky. The end of the weekend did not warrant the usual sullen nature. Instead, the city was buzzing with excitement to celebrate one of the most extraordinary days of the year: NYC Pride Fest.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple—the rainbow colors that represent the LGBTQ community succeed in illustrating the meaning of love in a way that mere words could never do justice.

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I had come home late the previous night but just in the nick of time for Sehri, the period of time early morning when Muslims worldwide consume a meal before abstaining from food and drink until the sun set again during the holy month of Ramadan.

With just under twenty minutes until the time limit was up, I quickly whisked a couple of eggs together to scarf down with some brown rice I had left in the fridge from the night before. After downing several glasses of water, I lost consciousness the moment my head hit the pillow, determinedly ignoring my protesting bladder.

The next morning, I slathered on the sunscreen, with my bright white Nike hat pulled low over my face before setting about the day. A vibrant yellow orb glowed high overhead, and I could already feel the back of my t-shirt begin to stick.

Though a mere spectator in past Pride Fests, I had agreed to table at the festival on behalf of Ad Council this year. The Ad Council, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting public service announcements via advertisements, was the cause of many shed tears the previous year from their campaign, “Love Has No Labels.”

The ad uses a life-size faux X-ray machine to display people expressing various forms of love, only for these people to step out from behind the screen and reveal themselves to represent different brands of love that are often paired with stigmas such as being interracial, homosexual, elderly, or disabled.

The powerful message behind this ad was not lost on the countless people who stopped by Ad Council’s table. It was clear by their expressions, once they recognized the campaign, that its meaning had indeed gotten through.

I greeted each visitor with a smile and a promise that they could keep the transparent frame I handed them, emblazoned with the statement, “Love Has No Labels,” so long as they posted a shot of them holding the frame on Instagram.

Observing the ear-splitting grins across the faces of friends, couples and families alike as they embraced for photographs left a gnawing feeling in my heart. The concept of hate towards the LGBTQ community is unfathomable. Hate in any form is unacceptable, but this particular brand of  vitriol is common among religious groups.

After the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, many Americans looked to the Muslim populace for an apology. The killer, a Muslim himself, allegedly despised gay people–this, among speculation regarding his own conflicting sexuality.

To this, I say no need: faith falls far behind my preemptive internal desire to spread love in the world. What better way than embracing one of the most passionate communities on the planet, whose existence embody the meaning of love, whose desperate cries for equality bleed with pride? Pride, for loving yourself for who you are and whom you love?

I am filled with pride, too. I am proud to be an active supporter for years, to be vocal in my outrage and to be able to reject convictions that are wrong, despite being backed up by my faith. May the rainbow flag remain vigilantly fluttering in the sky.

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