The radical power of finding your pride

The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House

As we kick off our 2023 Pride celebrations, Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director, Chris Glass, explains why it has never been more important

Thursday 1 June 2023   By Chris Glass   Portrait by Kate McLuckie

It’s incredibly important that we celebrate and engage with Pride in a meaningful way in 2023. With so many causes, we are able to look back and take comfort in the progress we’ve made through the years. But in the case of queer rights, the year 2023 is a pointed reminder that Pride and our freedom as queer people to live and love as we choose is under threat. 

Our community is under strategic attack in ways that we haven’t seen for decades. This year alone, at least 400 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the United States. Indonesia’s parliament successfully passed a criminal code violating the rights of women, religious minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. And in Uganda, parliament recently passed an amended version of their Anti-Homosexuality Bill, punishing admission of same-sex relations with a sentence of life imprisonment, even the death penalty. A simple Google search churns up a very dark picture.

Within the queer community, there are also lines of division and discord. The othering of trans people, women and people of colour is haunting. Between internalised trans/ homophobia, the weaponisation of ‘wokeness’ and ignorance around how intersectionality further impacts our most vulnerable, we all have an opportunity to do some deep soul-searching about what Pride means to us this year in particular. 

Here, Soho House Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director, Chris Glass, tells us about the importance of finding your pride and what it means to him. 

What does Pride mean to you?
‘I moved to New York in 1997 and attended my first Pride parade that summer. The streets were thick with revellers, and an aching sense of joy and optimism radiated from everything and everyone. I was beyond excited. Not only was I going to experience the quintessential Pride celebration (New York was the crown jewel in a nation of Pride marches), but I also hoped to find community and connection, and maybe even a date. Over the next few hours, the parade played out before me with muscled men in barely anything; others in wigs and pumps, topless women on motorbikes, and PFLAG parents waving and smiling. Every now and then was a small truck with folks chanting. But nowhere did I see anyone who looked like me. As a young, Black, skinny gay kid, I felt unincluded in Pride.  

‘Today, when I think of Pride, I think of Nikki, the personal assistant who is also trans on the Disney Channel’s super show Raven’s Home. The character is played by actor Juliana Joel, herself a trans Latina. I think of Ryan, the gay man with cerebral palsy at the centre of the show, Special. The actor Ryan O’Connell’s own stories of dating and life’s blunders offer a comical lift on life. I think of Tye, a queer Black woman bruising the binary on the TV show Harlem – in power suits fit for the gods. Played by Jerrie Johnson, the character is a reminder that queerness comes in all shades and shapes.

‘And I think of Cherry, a 48-year-old trans woman, unhoused, who was shot to death in the streets of Los Angeles. Already victimised by living on the fringes of society, the detail that cost Cherry her life was simply being herself. And I think of Melania and Christine, young lesbians forced to kiss on a London public bus for the amusement of a gang of young boys. The boys then assaulted the pair and stole their belongings. And I think of Andrew, the elderly disabled gay man who loved Ava Gardner. He was beaten with a pipe on the streets of Detroit and left to die until an ambulance picked him up. Only a few days later, Andrew would succumb to his injuries.

‘Pride for me is about shining light on the brightness in our world and holding space for those whose light has been extinguished.’
It’s a tumultuous time for many queer people around the world – not least in the United States. As a queer person with roots in North America, what does Pride mean both for you and the wider community in the face of all this uncertainty? 
‘I’m very fortunate to move around the world often and, in my experience, there are two factors that I see largely at play today nearly everywhere – fear and/ or apathy. So, I see Pride as a moment for all of us to take pause and reflect. And then take action. 

‘For those of us who are afraid, know that you are not alone. Use this moment to galvanise and plan strategic moves to push back the lines. Connect with your community and allies, show up, make noise, and know that those seemingly tiny acts of courage collectively are part of a movement. Love only wins when it wins.

‘With those for whom apathy has taken hold, if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. Look no further than across the aisle – the other side is alive and well, organised, and show no signs of stopping. If you can, stop and consider how you can advocate for someone less fortunate than yourself and then fill the gap. Nothing counters apathy like empathy.’

The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House

What is Soho House doing to celebrate Pride – not only in the sense of parties, but also in providing shelter, safety and a space of activism for our members? 
‘I am so proud of our teams in the ways that they show up for the community day in, day out.  

‘In the wake of anti-queer legislation targeted at drag queens in Tennessee, the team in Nashville provides a safe haven for drag performers to let their hair down and create community. I had a call with a team member in Austin who wanted to know how they could support a colleague whose gender-affirming healthcare was at risk of being outlawed because of legislation in Texas. Our own Founder has been working behind the scenes to support an activist in the Caribbean who is pushing for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in their home country. Our Inclusivity Board includes queer perspectives from around the globe. And our events schedules the world over are dotted with monthly programming to amplify queer voices, and provide spaces for people to connect and make an impact.’                   

Why is it important for people – and in turn, for Soho House members – to fight for pride? 
‘In speaking with a non-binary member recently, they told me about the aggressive reprimands they’d gotten from fellow members while they were using a toilet in one of our Houses. One of the things that stuck with me about the conversation was that this person had believed that at least Soho House was a space where they could feel safe. A simple act of intolerance shattered this. We use the phrase ‘like-minded’ often, but even within our own walls there is space for more compassion and community.’

Pride is often seen as being purely about partying, but it has its roots in activism. Is the activism element more important now than it has been in recent years? If so, why?
‘Both are important, each serving their time and place. But they require each other to be whole. We celebrate because of the liberation that we experience. Because we are free.  This deserves joy. But we must remember where our freedom comes from.  

‘I don’t take it for granted that a gaggle of drag queens took to Stonewall all those years ago to show the cops what protecting and serving was actually about. Bricks and wit were their weapons and joy was their battle cry, emboldened by the belief that they deserved to be exactly who they were, and doing so out loud. Since those days, thousands of activists, loud and otherwise, have given their time and sometimes their lives for me to have the privilege of taking part in a parade or going to a rooftop party, or simply choosing to love who I want to love in plain sight. Those sacrifices deserve my pause.’

How did you find your pride? Have you found your pride? 
‘I distinguish between finding my sexuality and finding my pride. My coming out story is dramatically undramatic. My mom found some old copies of a gay lifestyle magazine hidden under my bed and asked if she needed to be worried about anything. I told her, “Nothing to worry about Mommy. I’m at work, I’ll fill you in on the dets later.” The dets being I’m still the smart, loving, compassionate human being you raised me to be – just with a twist.

‘But being able to take pride in who I am as a gay man is an ongoing journey to which I am called to task every day. There are days of quieting my own demons about how manhood intersects with my queerness. Then there are others where learning to unapologetically love another man allows me to love myself more. And there are times when I softly answer moments of shame with grace. On most days, I work together with folks across the globe to build community for people who didn’t, or don’t, see themselves in Pride parades.’

What would you say to a young – or older – queer person who feels on the margins and, in turn, unable to find their pride? 
‘Dwell in possibility. Neither Rome, nor Beyoncé, were built in a day.’

Why is finding pride – and a Pride celebration – so important? 
‘Finding your pride is a critical process, because it isn’t fixed. It’s a moving target. Like so many of the human rights many of us advocate for, it must be passionately sought, fought for, protected, and respected. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a birthright.

‘In an age where so many people don’t have coming out stories or move in spaces where their sexual orientation is unquestioned, finding pride is a real achievement for some of us and it’s not to be lessened. For those who choose to be allies with us, Pride is also a moment of standing with us in solidarity. With all the darkness and pain being spewed about, we all deserve a moment of brightness where we can be our shiniest, most proud selves.’

The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House
The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House

Book a spot at the Pride events we’re hosting around the Houses below:

Summer Fridays with Vidalia Anne Gentry and Inclusion Tennessee: Pride kick-off, Soho House Nashville

The journey to justice: a convening on LGBTQIA+ issues, Soho House Nashville

Pride party: born this way, Soho House West Hollywood

LSD women-only party: Pride Month kick-off, Soho House Tel Aviv, Jaffa 

Teeny House: find your Pride T-shirt design, Soho House Nashville

House Party: Pride, Holloway House 

WeHo Pride parade viewing, Holloway House 

Drag House Brunch, Soho House New York

Drag Bingo with Genderika: Pride special, Soho House Tel Aviv, Jaffa

Queer pop-up, Soho House Tel Aviv, Jaffa 

Creative writing workshop and brunch, Soho House 40 Greek Street

House Comedy: Pride special, Soho House Mumbai

Lakeside Summer Party: Pride, Soho Farmhouse

Pride Splash: mermaid party, Soho House Austin

Ostbahnhof x Soho Warehouse presents Pride at the pool

Sex Ed Matters celebrates Pride, Soho House 76 Dean Street

Pride in queer sex with Amelia Abraham and Samuel Douek, Soho House 40 Greek Street

Pride in queer and trans parenthood, Soho House 76 Dean Street 

Visit our events page to see the full schedule across all of the Houses this month

The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House
The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House
The radical power of  finding your pride | Soho House