You might have been under the impression Pride has been canceled this year. There weren’t any parades, some celebratory events, few rainbow posts. Much of this was due to COVID-19, but with the general focus being on Black Lives Matter and the erupting protests all across the country, you probably thought that there was no room for Pride. However, Pride wasn’t canceled, this year’s Pride was the best Pride yet.
One might think that Gay Pride, a celebration of love and acceptance of one’s gender identity and sexuality, has no place within or next to a movement against police brutality and racism. But while, yes, Gay Pride is a celebration of love and acceptance, Gay Pride was, is, and always will be an anti-police brutality and anti-bigotry protest. Not just because celebrating a gender expression and sexual identity that does not conform to the heteronormative standards set by society is a form of protest in itself, but because that’s how Gay Pride first came to be.
You’ve probably heard of Stonewall and people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie, the LGBTQ+ women of color who lead riots. ( you can explore the timeline of events of the 1969 Stonewall Riots on History.com or virtually interact with the Stonewall Inn and it’s history and legacy StonewallForever.org. )
To give you a brief summary of what took place, the police raided a gay bar in New York known as the Stonewall Inn, as homosexuality was illegal at the time. For their own safety and privacy, LGBTQ+ individuals would congregate in bars often protected by the mafia, as they would pay the police to look the other way. But one early morning, on June 28th, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn. And instead of going peacefully, those in attendance fought back. The riots lasted until July 3rd of the same year.
While this was definitely a landmark in history as this was the spark that created Gay Pride, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights had only begun and to this day still continues.
Not too long ago, in the United States, homosexuality was pretty much outlawed. People of the same sex could be arrested for engaging in sexual intercourse. Homosexuality and transgenderism were considered mental illnesses. Conversion therapy, the practice of using physical, mental, emotional, and psychological torture, to try to convert a gay person to become straight and transgender people to become cisgender. Though proven not to work, it was, for the most part, legal and still is in many states in the United States (linked here is more information on conversion therapy done by the Human Rights Campaign and a map detailing the legality of conversion therapy across the United States provided by LGBTmap.org). Those of the same sex could not get married or adopt children. Gay and Transgender people could be fired, could be denied housing and services. Transgender individuals couldn’t use the bathroom of their preferred gender. Even attacks based on sexual and gender identity weren’t considered hate crimes up until very recently.
Even to this day, many in the LGBTQ+ community are still at a legal disadvantage, much of it being masked as Religious Liberty. Medical professionals can turn away and refuse to treat gay and transgender patients, reported by Vox, as ruled by the Trump Administration earlier this month on the anniversary of the Pulse Night Club Shooting that killed 49 people. Adoption Agencies can reject gay couples from adopting children and it is being pushed by the Trump Administration, as reported by NBC News. Transgender individuals cannot enlist in the military, even after the Supreme Court ruled against LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace. (You can read more about the ban here at the Human Rights Campain. ) Transgender individuals cannot compete in athletics with their preferred gender in several states. Transgender people are still being put in the prisons of their birth and not preferred gender, resulting in their torture and abuse, as told by one New York lawsuit being represented by the ACLU.
This mostly only pertains to the United States, though. Homosexuality is still outlawed in most countries around the world. Here is a link to a map by ILGA that shows the legal views of the world on gender and sexual orientation in 2019. Culturally, people are still being abused, harassed, harmed, tortured, bullied, disowned, and even killed for being gay and transgender.
Even though more accepted than it was ten years ago, these things are still happening. Many people would rather have a dead child than a gay or transgender child, like story reported by The Daily Beast that happened earlier this year, where an eight-year-old boy was killed by his own mother because she thought he was gay. Many people get enraged that when they find out someone they are interested in is transgender, and sadly feel obligated to end their life. In one week, that being the week of June 13th, two Black Trans women were found dead, reported by TIME. This is all especially worse for Black and Brown LGBTQ+ individuals who not only have to deal with homophobia and transphobia but racism as well.
How this all ties together? Very simply indeed. Gay Pride originated from riots against the police brutality, just as we are seeing now. The riots at the Stonewall Inn against police who were disbanding and arresting LGBTQ+ individuals for homosexual acts and for being homosexual lead to the creation of Gay Pride, a movement that fights for equality and justice for LGBTQ+ individuals, something that has yet to be completely accomplished.
What the Black Lives Matter Movement and Gay Pride have in common is the fight against an oppressive law enforcement and an oppressive system of law. So this year, while there weren’t as many rainbows, what sparked Gay Pride in the first place came to life again to not only fight for Black and Brown lives, but against a suppressive system in hopes that our resistance and our denial to comply with their unjust laws and rules will force the system to treat us equally and to give us justice.
Behind all the rainbow flags and balloons, Gay Pride has always been a riot. The first Pride was a riot. The reason the LGBTQ+ community has come so far is because of rioting. And this year, Gay Pride returned to its roots of rioting for equality and justice for the Black and Brown lives lost at the hands of the same police that oppressed them. It was, after all, Black and Brown people that created Pride. To turn its back on Black and Brown people would be spitting in the face of the people who are the reason we have gotten this far.
Justice and equality have never been given when asked nicely. Just as gay and trans people have, Black and people of color have had to fight against the system to prove they are worthy of being treated as human. This is a common fight with a common enemy. And the unity between the Black Lives Matter Movement and Gay Pride for the relentless protests not only across every state but all over the world just goes to show that this year’s Pride was by far one of the biggest!
Cover photo from CNBC