In 2019 I celebrated my very first gay pride, in Philadelphia at the city’s annual PrideDay LGBT Parade, and felt for the first time the true essence of what it means to be gay and proud. I witnessed thousands of people joining together in a magnificent celebration of their identities, making it impossible for any passerby to escape the collective effervescence of the crowd and creating a space of self-affirmation and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride, I realized, is a time to unite, empower, and increase the visibility of queer folks, allowing others not only to feel safe coming out of the closet but also to be lovingly welcomed into a community powered by massive rainbow-filled hugs and glamorous drag queens.
This year pride is different. With over 100,000 people dead from the novel Coronavirus in the United States alone, and the virus keeping families, friends, and communities physically distanced, 2020 won’t see the exuberant celebrations of Prides past. The pandemic has also exposed the major inequities within our healthcare system, as communities of color continue to be disproportionately affected by the virus. Simultaneously, millions are taking to the streets to stand up against police brutality and racism and mourn the abhorrent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black people. This June is indeed quite different than the one afforded to us last year – at least on the surface.
In light of these social crises, each member of the queer community needs to join together to reimagine Pride 2020. We must inject new life, one of greater energy and activism, into the gay liberation movement this month and beyond and join together in support of our Black and Brown brothers, sisters, and gender-nonconforming siblings. This year’s Pride means fewer parties, but it offers a unique opportunity to reflect on our long history as LGBTQ+ people, on our roots in activism and protest, on the progress we have made, and most importantly, on how far we still need to go.
Equality Hasn’t Been Equally Earned
Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the LGBTQ+ community has hit hundreds of milestones that have increased the visibility and rights of those who identify as queer in this country. We have achieved tangible outcomes such as the legalization of gay marriage and experienced the “rainbow wave” of the 2018 elections (when more than 150 LGBTQ+ officials were ushered into public office), but despite this progress, many in our community have been left behind. In light of recent events, now is a particularly ripe time to reflect on how much further we need to fight for the Black and Brown members of our community.
Black trans women are among the most vulnerable people in American society today: the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35-years-old, and about 38% experience homelessness and extreme poverty. Just days after the killing of George Floyd, 38-year-old Tony McDade, a transgender Black person, was shot dead by police in Florida, and this killing has garnered little media attention. Additionally, our LGBTQ+ youth are also at high risk: queer young people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ+ youth, and queer Black youth are at an even greater risk of facing incarceration.
These staggering statistics show just how necessary it is to uplift every member of our community, no matter their age, race, or gender identity. Each of us needs to educate ourselves on our history, get involved in today’s movements, and create strategic sustainable solutions to fight the multitude of injustices faced by our most vulnerable.
Ideas for Celebrating Pride with Purpose
There still are many ways to celebrate your identity this month, like joining the 3-day digital drag festival to raise funds for local drag performers or learn how to make a cocktail in every color of the rainbow. But, even though we should be proud of how far we have come, let us not forget how much work we still have to do. We must use this celebration as an opportunity to further the intersectionality of the Black Lives Matter movement and the gay liberation movement. We must use this month to stand up for the Black and Brown members within the queer community and work to fulfill the promise of the original Pride (more about protests, riots, and movement building than crafting rainbow cocktails — though there is room for both). This is how we can finally begin a new era of equality, one in which every person in our community has the opportunity to thrive.
Pride Month Action Items
Here are some of the things on my list of action items to continue to further the dialogue this Pride month:
Gather & Learn
Host a virtual discussion group with your queer friends and allies on the current state of the LGBTQ+ community and discuss ways in which you can support groups that stand up against hate and discrimination towards our Black and Brown communities.
Use “Race Forward’s” guide on how to talk about racism, racial equality, and racial healing with friends and/or family.
Donate & Support
- Transgender Law Center: “Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender-nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.”
- The Covenant House: The Covenant House works to find housing for homeless youth, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+, who are twice as likely to die of early death than all youth who experience homelessness.
- National Black Justice Coalition : “The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender-loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ/SGL bias and stigma.”
- Black Queer & Intersectional Collective: “BQIC is a grassroots community organization in Central Ohio that works towards the liberation of Black LGBTQIA+ people from all walks of life through direct action, community organizing, education on our issues, and creating spaces to uplift our voices.”
- Homeless Black Transgender Women Fund: This fund directly supports the community of transgender women in Atlanta who are sex workers and/or homeless.
- National Queer and Trans Therapist of Color Network: “National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN) is a healing justice organization committed to transforming mental health for queer and trans people of color (QTPoC). [They] work at the intersection of movements for social justice and the field of mental health to integrate healing justice into both of these spaces. [Their] overall goal is to increase access to healing justice resources for QTPoC.”
- The Marsha P. Johnson Institute : “The Marsha P. Johnson Institute (MPJI) protects and defends the human rights of Black transgender people. We do this by organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promoting our collective power.”
- The Okra Project: “The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home-cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever [they] can reach them.”
Read & Discuss
Listen & Watch
“The Life & Death of Marsha P. Johnson” on Netflix
In many ways, there is no pride without Marsha P. Johnson. She led the fight to end violence against trans women during the gay liberation movement throughout the 20th century, and her legacy continues to inspire people to fight for change within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.
“The Urgency of Intersectionality”: TedTalk by Kimberlé Crenshaw
In this lecture, scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality,” explains this phenomenon and the critical need of uniting marginalized groups.
“13th” on Netflix
This award-winning documentary highlights the work of Black scholars, activists, politicians, and educators, as they analyze the criminalization of people of color and the resulting era of mass incarceration.
About the Author
David Garnick is from the Philadelphia area and is a rising sophomore planning to double major in political science and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a representative on the Undergraduate Assembly and a member of its task force to promote PrEP on campus.
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