Trigger Warning: references of homophobia, transphobia, violence, and suicide
June is nationally recognized LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. It commemorates the June 28, 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York City. The riots are widely viewed as the catalyst for much of the world’s movements toward LGBTQIA+ liberation. Organizers held our nation’s first gay pride parade on June 28, 1970 to commemorate Stonewall.
Marsha P. Johnson (a Black trans activist) and Sylvia Rivera (a Latine trans activist) were key figures in the riot, and later they both played critical roles in the movement. I cite these awe-inspiring women because it’s important for us to remember our own history. We must remember that we owe many of the liberties that we now cherish to Black and Brown trans people. Our movement, like many others, is suffused with the damaging effects of white dominant culture, but we cannot forget the contributions of the BIPOC and trans members of our community.
In her essay “Learning from the 60’s”, national treasure and Black feminist lesbian poet Audre Lorde wrote:
“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
We must honor and uplift those among us who sit at the intersection of oppressions.
The nation’s first pride parade’s official chant was: “Say it loud, gay is proud.” I can’t help but contrast this chant with the “Don’t say gay” legislation sweeping the nation. Our youth are considering and completing suicide at alarming rates. Our transgender kin, especially our Black trans sisters, are facing unprecedented levels of gender-based violence. Our sexuality, our gender expression, and even our existence are criminalized.
Under the weight of all this hate, our feelings of pride are essential to our survival.
In his memoir Just Mercy, African American human rights attorney Bryan Stevenson said:
“Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.”
Pride Month is a time for us to be visible, to unite in solidarity, and to show our joy and our hope in the face of continued hardship. I say to anyone who would harm us: We exist. We are not alone. Though we might be afraid sometimes, we’ll never stop seeking equity and justice.