Editor’s note: In this opinion piece, Talisman illustrator Natalie Hedberg reflects on the need for Pride activities to go beyond the hyper-sexualization of queer bodies to focus on the progress the LGBTQ community has fought for and the freedoms that still need to be won.

With Bowling Green Pride right around the corner, it’s important to discuss the challenges that queer people still face. Throughout the years, queer bodies have been hyper-sexualized and reduced down to the people they want to have sex with, not about the love that they share. Pride can be a fun time to celebrate being queer, and the bright colors and sequined clad costumes create a safe space for all people to celebrate who they are, but it can be challenging to navigate at times.

As “Queer Eye’s” Karamo Brown pointed out in an interview with Gay Times Magazine, many pride activities are hyper-sexualized. From floats sponsored by alcohol brands to women walking around topless to men in rainbow jockstraps, pride provides a safe space to express sexuality and foster body positivity.

But that’s not all there is to being queer. It goes beyond “who you want to have sex with” because queer people aren’t just a manifestation of sex. Pride is a celebration of queer bodies as well as a time to reflect on changes that need to be made and celebrate the equality that has already been won.

After attending pride in Minneapolis for years, I have come to embrace the joys of tube tops and glitter-covered bodies, but it can be intense at times. Last year was Bowling Green’s first pride festival, and it celebrated the love the LGBTQ community shares in an environment that was safe for all ages, including children. Drag performances and all-inclusive vendors filled the park with gay energy while being an inclusive for all ages, races, genders and sexual orientations.

It is never too early to teach children that love is love.

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