June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community. And while it has become a celebratory thing, it is important, especially in the current social and political climate, to remember that Pride Month did not start as a march. It did not start as a party. It did not start as a celebration. Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising.
In 1969, while it was illegal to be gay, there were gay clubs. One was the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. The police would raid it every so often. They would arrest the patrons. They would beat the patrons. And they would look the other way if the patrons were murdered.
We are still here. You will not silence us. You haven’t been able to yet, and you never will.
One day, a group of gay people, mostly trans women and street kids, mostly people of color, said “NO MORE!” and fought back. That started six days of riots, where LGBTQ people from all over the city converged in Greenwich Village and demanded their rights. To demand their lives!
We have gotten used to Pride Month being kicked off with a Presidential Proclamation. Every year for eight years, we had President Obama issue a proclamation. As far back as 1999, when President Clinton issued the first one, we have grown accustomed to a march forward in our rights, our visibility. But we have forgotten about our origins, the roots of Pride Month, which are steeped in the struggle against homophobic, anti-LGBTQ violence.
Last year, we were reminded that Pride Month isn’t just about a party. We were reminded about the blood it took to get us here when 49 LGBTQ people, mostly people of color, were gunned down at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. It was a shock, and a remembrance of those six days in 1969.
This year, we may not think we have a lot to celebrate. We have a White House that is the most hostile to LGBTQ rights in recent memory, and not just because it’s the first time in eight years Pride Month wasn’t introduced with a Presidential Proclamation.
We have a “religious freedom” bill being introduced in Congress.
We have gay men being kidnapped and tortured in Chechnya.
We have … too many slights and attacks to mention, from the international down to the personal.
But it is Pride Month. And this month, this year, we remember where it all started. We stand here, proud and strong, and say to these people — to the White House, to Congress, and to homophobes across the world — “We are still here. You will not silence us. You haven’t been able to yet, and you never will.”
While we want to celebrate all that has come before, we need to use this momentum to continue the march we have been on for so many decades, rendering the current Republican administration a mere blip in our upward trajectory toward rights, acceptance, and dignity. We must fight for nationwide nondiscrimination laws; inclusive sexual health education; protections for trans people; a nationwide ban on conversion therapy; and a more tolerant society that puts LGBTQ people at lower risk for bullying, hate crimes, homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide.
And in that fight, we have allies like Planned Parenthood, who are working every day to create a community that is welcoming, that is educated, and that is fostering a future where Pride can be a big party.
Thanks for honoring the people who stood up during the Stonewall Riots. One thing that is often left out of the story is the fact that the majority of the protesters at Stonewall were transgender women. As we all celebrate how far our community has come, let’s not forget that we still have a lot to do as queer activists to make sure that transgender people are recognized and celebrated. But let’s not forget that trans people are at the highest risk of being attacked by, both by members of community at large, as well as the police. Say it loud, and say it proud.