It’s June which means Pride Month has started. Across the country, LGBTQ+ communities are coming together to celebrate the strides that have been made in the fight for equality and justice. While most will only see the drag performances and the parades, it is important to remember that LGBTQ+ communities are still actively facing threats and we all have the opportunity to act as Allies.
What do we mean by LGBTQ+ communities and why is Pride celebrated?
LGBTQ+ communities are inclusive of many individuals who may or may not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. For those outside of the LGBTQ+ communities, the individuals most familiar may be those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Questioning.
Over the years, other identities have been added to the acronym including (but definitely not limited to) Pansexual, Polysexual, Intersex, Two-Spirited, and Asexual. Additionally, ‘Ally’ was added to represent those who do not identify as part of these communities but demonstrate a commitment to advocating for justice for LGBTQ+ communities.
You may, in fact, have come across variations of the LGBTQ+ acronym itself but for the purposes of this article, I will use the acronym “LGBTQ+” in recognition that there are a myriad of ways individuals do, and should be allowed to, identify and express who they are. It is imperative to remember that LGBTQ+ communities are not a single voice but are instead the collective voices of communities who are fighting to have their identities represented and universally accepted in our society, laws, and culture.
That fight—the struggle for acceptance, equality, and basic human rights—lays half of the foundation for what Pride is about.
A quick history lesson: During the 1950s and 60s, LGBTQ+ communities faced uphill battles at most every turn. It was a widely accepted belief that those who identified as members of LGBTQ+ communities could be “rehabilitated” into a heterosexual and cisgender lifestyle. President Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450, signed in 1953, barred homosexuals from being employed by the federal government, thus beginning what became known as “The Lavender Scare.”
The tides of these trends began to turn at the dawn of the 1970s. In June 1969, The Stonewall Inn in Manhattan was raided by the New York City Police Department in order to identify, by name, those who were patronizing the gay bar, as well as arrest those individuals presenting as female but who were biologically male (which, in case you were curious, was verified by police in the bathrooms of the bar).
The protests spawned by this raid and ignited by Trans Women of Color are widely accepted as sparking the modern-day Gay Rights Movement. With this turning point came a significant change in how members of LGBTQ+ communities demanded to be seen, heard, and treated.
Since the raid at The Stonewall Inn, we have seen the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the passage of marriage equality, among many other significant accomplishments. We, as a society and government, have made great strides. And while those strides have been great, we have many more strides to take together. What is left to be accomplished is the second foundation of Pride: a reminder that there is much work yet to be done and that there are people in power who are hell-bent on preventing that work from happening.
To understand the threats currently facing LGBTQ+ communities, unfortunately you need not look further than earlier this year. What I share here is not, by any means, a comprehensive list. Instead, it is but a flavor of the work we, as potential Allies to LGBTQ+ communities, must decide to engage in.
We are currently seeing bills in states (and let’s call a spade a spade, these are states with majority GOP leaderships) that are eliminating access for transgender youth to receive life-saving and affirming healthcare services (Arkansas), barring transgender athletes from team participation unless on a team matching their assigned sex at birth (West Virginia), and prohibiting transgender individuals from using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity (Tennessee). (For our own reckoning, let’s go back to 2016 when we, in North Carolina, passed HB2 and then repealed it in exchange for denying further protections for LGBT+ communities).
The fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality is also playing out at the federal level. As of the writing of this article, we are waiting to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case in which a Catholic-run foster care agency is hoping for allowance to not place children with same-sex couples (as it is goes against the agency’s religious grounds) and retain their contracts with the City of Philadelphia.
I could keep growing this list, but here’s the point: these decisions hinge on someone’s belief or ideology that members of LGBTQ+ communities are less deserving of the same rights, protections, and access than those of us who identify as heterosexual or cisgender. I firmly believe that legal decisions and regulations should be based in fact, reality, or science; alas, here we are.
Our Opportunity to Act as Allies
Finally, let’s not forget that Pride is indeed a time of celebration. Chances are we all know someone who is part of a LGBTQ+ community, and I hope we have all decided not to purposely distance ourselves from them simply because of their identity. So during the month of June, I hope you do get a chance to engage in the festivities and celebrate the milestones that we, as a country, have achieved thus far. Attend the parades. Tip your drag performer. Remember to celebrate someone for who they are. And then, let’s get to work.
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