a 5 minute read
I had originally planned for this to just be in the form of a celebratory Instagram caption, accompanied by a charming photo. However, I think it’s deserving of some space here to dive a bit deeper into what this month means, how I’m celebrating my first Pride month as an openly gay man, and how anyone can support and champion this community.
The month of June, for those who might be unaware, is Pride month, aka a celebration of all things LGBTQIA+ (I use this acronym because the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success at Iowa State University uses it as a way to be as inclusive as possible). A quick Google search will tell you that Pride month commemorates the riots and subsequent uprising that took place at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 New York. It effectively marks the beginning of an ever-present and vocal movement for LGBTQIA+ rights that continues through today. As of today (June 28, 2020), it has been exactly 51 years since that riot and 50 years since the first Pride parade. That calls for some celebration.
Having said that, I’d be absolutely remiss if I did not acknowledge the brave, hard, and exhausting work of people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Harvey Milk, Craig Rodwell, Fred Sargeant, Edith Windsor, and countless others who paved the way for young people like me to live in a world, more than fifty years later, that is more inclusive, embracing, and loving of all identities. Of note is the revolutionary efforts by queer Black women, folks of color, and especially Black transgender women. They truly led the way, and continue to do so, even though they shouldn’t have to.
In a utopian or idealistic world, there would be no need to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride, or the progress made toward an equitable and just society, because full equality would already be present and the patronizing distinctions between straight and queer, binary and nonbinary, cis and trans, etc. would be absent. Unfortunately, we continue to live in a heteronormative and cisnormative society that assumes and supports the notion that everyone’s sexual orientation is straight and the sex assigned at birth corresponds to someone’s gender until stated otherwise. That burden and subsequent trauma are outweighed, thank God, by the absolute blessings I personally feel as a gay person. I’m so grateful for my sexual orientation and despite its limited role in shaping who I am, it certainly adds to the beautiful puzzle of me. Tied to the blessings I feel, however, is an immense amount of privilege as a white, Catholic, young, able-bodied, cisgender man from a middle-class socioeconomic background.
“If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”Toni Morrison
So, regardless of the blessings I feel, in no way do I want to sugarcoat the work that needs to be done on the path toward complete and unwavering equality for the LGBTQIA+ community. As I noted in an Instagram post last October, “In more than half of the 50 states, someone could be evicted or refused service for how they identify…Worldwide, only 28 countries recognize same-sex marriage. In countless others, basic LGBTQIA+ rights are not protected and freedoms are frequently suppressed. More so, same-sex relations [remain] criminalized in 70 countries. Those who identify as LGBTQIA+ face an increased risk of hate-motivated violence and harassment.” Disparities are wide in housing, education, rates of incarceration, healthcare, and more.
While those facts can feel disheartening, heavy, and distant to many, it affects those with less privilege every day. Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Dominique Fells, Riah Milton, and María Elizabeth Montaño are four recent victims of the insufferable violence against the transgender community. Their deaths add to the myriad of others who are attacked or murdered every year because of their identity. They should be alive today, but they aren’t. It shouldn’t be hard, but it is. We shouldn’t have to fight, but we will. We shouldn’t have to wait, and we won’t. Pride is celebratory, with good reason, but forgetting the pain felt by many while appreciating and embracing the differences in all of us, does a disservice to us all.
I could go on about the numerous ways in which LGBTQIA+ people, and youth in particular, are negatively affected by those who see them as less than. I won’t do that, though. Not only is it painful, but to an extent, by allocating attention to the insolence, it also subconsciously reinforces the stigma that those who identify as LGBTQIA+ struggle for legitimate or inconsequential reasons. Nonetheless, if you’d like to learn more, the websites/organizations below are phenomenal resources for exactly that:
Everyone must do their best to straddle that line between stringent advocacy and pure celebration. There is not one without the other. We cannot collectively advocate effectively without taking time to recognize and celebrate the progress made and we should not celebrate without acknowledging the countless steps left to take. If we do not recognize the problems, we will not solve them.
With that said, LGBTQIA+ Pride month is 1/12 of the year when those who identify as LGBTQIA+ get to truly relish (in a more celebratory fashion) in living as their honest, genuine, and authentic selves. So, while it is certainly odd to have our rights as LGBTQIA+ people be frequently debated and voted on, this Pride month was made extra special on June 15 when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is unconstitutional. The courageous plaintiffs, Gerald Bostock, Donald Zarda, and Aimee Stephens, helped make this possible.
There’s a lot to celebrate, plenty of love to be shared, and more work to do. So, this year, while I have a solo, socially-distanced, and stunning photoshoot in my Pride attire, I am doing what I can to support organizations that are on the frontlines of assisting those in the LGBTQIA+ community that need it most. The current, long-overdue reckoning of racism and systemic inequities for Black people in the U.S. makes me even more inclined to share ways of empowering the queer Black community. The intersectionality (a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the oppression faced by those with multiple marginalized identities) of queer Black people, particularly transgender women of color, cannot be ignored.
I have included a link below to a useful article from The Cut that lists a plethora of ways to help. In addition, you will find numerous links to organizations worthy of your support.
Until all of us are free from the systemic restraints and oppression of a heteronormative, cisnormative, and racist society, none of us are. So, this LGBTQIA+ Pride month, I’m celebrating myself, my communities, and the allies that show up to force positive change — by doing what I can to ensure that everyone can celebrate their authentic selves far sooner than later. I hope you do the same.
Consider learning about, supporting, and/or donating to an organization below
- thecut.com (Long list of ways to help the Black LGBTQIA+ community)
- The Okra Project (Provides meals and resources to Black transgender people)
- The Trevor Project (Suicide prevention, advocacy, research, and education programs for at-risk LGBTQIA+ youth)
- Marsha P. Johnson Institute (Protect and defend the human rights of Black transgender people)
- American Civil Liberties Union (Defending the human rights and constitutional freedoms of marginalized communities)
- LGBTQ Freedom Fund (Raises awareness of the over-incarceration of LGBTQIA+ people and assists with the safety and liberty of those imprisoned)
- Center for Black Equity (Edudates, engages, and empowers Black LGBTQIA+ people)
- Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (Helps to overcome violence and injustice toward Black transgender people)
May we all be reminded of what it means and how it feels to give our honest selves to every setting we find ourselves in. Happy Pride!