Happy Pride Month everyone. Pride Month, celebrated in the month of June in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, is a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, remembering their years of struggle for civil rights, and fighting for the ongoing pursuit of equal justice under the law. Pride month actually began as a riot against police brutality at a small dive bar in New York City, called the Stonewall Inn, in June 1969.
The 1960s and previous decades were not a welcoming time for the LGBTQ+ community. There were laws against engaging in “gay behavior” and “cross-dressing” in public. So, gay bars and clubs were places of refuge where people could openly express themselves and socialize without fear. Unfortunately, police officers would harass the people inside and the owners of gay bars and clubs. Officers would pour in, threatening and beating the staff and people inside. People would then be lined up outside and arrested. This pattern changed, however. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, when officers came to harass and arrest the people inside Stonewall Inn they fought back. This raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and nearby Christopher Park. While there are several accounts of that night and the days proceeding, many agree that the tipping point came when an officer hit and tried to arrest a gender-nonconforming “butch” lesbian (believed to be Stormé DeLarverie). They shouted to onlookers to act, to help, to do something, and they did. The crowd began to throw pennies, bottles, cobble stones and other objects at the police. It didn’t take long for it to turn into a full blown-out riot. The Stonewall Riots, also known as the Stonewall Uprising, served as a catalyst for the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Now over 50 years later, we’ve come a long way in gaining rights for the LGBTQ+ community. But there is still work to be done. While we have made great progress in gaining rights, there are many state legislatures that are advancing bills that target LGBTQ+ people, limit local protections, and use the cover of religion to discriminate. We are seeing attacks on LGBTQ+ people and their rights, from banning gender affirming care to banning books about gender. As of March 7, 2023, there have been at least 385 bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights and queer life that have been introduced around the U.S.  This has already passed last year’s total, which was 306 bills. These bills vary from affecting healthcare to schooling and education. In the past three years 18 states have banned transgender student athletes from competing on the school sports teams that align with their gender identity instead of the sex they were assigned at birth. Politicians claim that the reasoning behind these laws is to protect kids and keep them safe. Personally, I don’t think that makes much sense. I mean, it’s a little confusing considering that these government officials are the same people that do nothing to protect kids from gun violence. Trans people, drag performers, and “queer” books are not a threat to children, but NRA-backed politicians who continuously refuse to enact common-sense gun laws are. Gun violence is the number 1 cause of death for children under the age of 18. More than 1,300 children under 18 have been injured or killed by gun violence in 2023. Rather than focusing on actually protecting children, politicians continue to criminalize and attack LGBTQ+ people and their rights, under the guise of “protecting children.” It is infuriating, awful, and disgusting.
I know that Pride month is a celebration and it’s tough having to talk about these facts, but it is still necessary. It is important to celebrate and be proud of how far we’ve come, but it is equally if not more important to be aware of the current political environment we are living in. And it is totally okay if you feel scared. Scared about what your identity means for you. Scared about whether you’ll get to be happy. Scared to come out. Scared of staying closeted. Scared you’ll be hurt. Scared you’ll lose people close to you over this. You don’t deserve to be scared, you deserve to be happy and at peace, but it is okay if you are scared. You are not alone. The LGBTQ+ community and allies continue to fight every day. We will prepare to continue stronger, together, hopefully towards a day where homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and violence no longer exist. In the meantime, if you are feeling troubled by the news and politics, remember that despite threats of violence and discrimination, the LGBTQ+ community still continues to thrive. There are people everywhere who are living their fullest, truest lives, happily. And that is something to be PROUD of. Happy PRIDE Month!
References: https://www.american.edu/cas/news/the-first-pride-was-a-riot.cfm  https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/09/us/transgender-people-bills-oklahoma-tennessee-reaj/index.html  https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/100-anti-lgbtq-bills-state-legislatures-2023-far-activists-say-fired-rcna65349  https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/