Updated: Jun 24, 2020
By Brynne Duty
As we approach the end of June, to what in any other year would be a week of coming together, honoring, and marching for the LGBTQ+ community, we instead find ourselves amid the uncertainty of a global pandemic and the continued policing of, and violence toward, Black, Brown, Indiginous and other people of color's bodies. Pride itself was born out of resistance and protest. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride March held in New York City, one year after the uprising at Stonewall. That uprising was led primarily by trans folks of color in protest of state-sanctioned violence by police against the LGBTQ+ community. Two years after Stonewall, there were gay rights organizations in nearly every major city in the US.
Marsha "Pay It No Mind" Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Storme` DeLarverie are among those who lived at the intersection between racism, homophobia, and transphobia, and who ignited the LBGTQ+ rights movement. Despite being at the forefront of this movement, and despite being those bodies most negatively affected by genderist, sexist, and racist systems, Black, Brown, Indiginous and other folks of color, esp trans, voices are the most overlooked and forgotten even within the movement they helped to create. As a White, cis-gendered member of the queer community, I acknowledge the large debt my family and I owe to these unsung fighters.
As was written and spoken by Audre Lorde, a self-described "Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet," "Empowering people who are doing the work does not mean using priviledge to overstep or overpower such groups; but rather, priviledge must be used to hold the door open for others." We must recognize that those who need representation the most are often the most left out of the discussion, the most likely to have their specific needs pushed aside to allow focus on the "homogenous group agenda." We must move away from presenting movements as having a single face and move toward a multi-faceted force, embracing difference to strengthen the fight.
We have made much progress since Stonewall, most recently with the landmark Supreme Court ruling that protection against discrimination due to sex under Title VII applies to LGBTQ+ people. Prior to this ruling, it was legal in 26 states to fire people who identify as LGBTQ+ on the basis of that identity alone. However, we still have so far to go, as on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Trump administration released a rule that removes healthcare protections for LGBTQ+ folks, a rule that particularly targets transgender individuals. Access to healthcare, the ability to live authentically, and raise families remains under attack for the LGBTQ+ community, with Black and Black transgender people facing the highest rates of violence.
Also from Audre Lorde, "The transformation of silence into language and action is a self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger." We must continue to stand together, to continue our inner work, that self-revelation Lorde speaks of, and to be clear on our individual reasons behind this work so that we may take sustainable and authentic action.
This is not easy work, but it is absolutely necessary. I will close with these words from the writer Sue Monk Kidd, "Honor the largeness in me, no matter how I fear it...Honor the words I write. May they be beautiful in your sight. May they be visible to eyes not yet born. When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice."
I lift my voice with yours as we work for change together.