June is Pride Month. Pride, for those of you that don’t know, celebrates the LGBTQ community and their accomplishments, and it commemorates the Stonewall riots that occurred in June of 1969. The Stonewall riots were an important act for gay rights, spearheading the conversation needed to incite change. So what happened, exactly?
The LGBTQ community wasn’t widely accepted even by the 1960s and 1970s, a time most people believe to have been all about “free love.” This was not so for the LGBTQ community. They were scorned, even then, laws going so far as to make it illegal for them to hold hands or kiss in public. Police raids at gay bars were fairly typical.
The mob saw an opportunity in gay patrons, and so they owned most of the gay bars in Greenwich village, including the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn used to be a straight bar but was renovated and turned into a gay bar - it even allowed dancing. But when a police raid happened on June 28th, all hell broke loose. Gay patrons, who were sick and tired of the targets on their backs, began to fight back against the police and gather outside of the bar. They threw things at the police and rioted, fed up with the way the police were handling them forcefully and the way they were constantly being threatened. All they wanted was a place to dance and be themselves! The protest ending up lasting for several days after the initial incident, and led to many gay rights organizations.
Now that we know the history behind pride, I want to take a moment to contemplate where we are now in terms of acceptance of the LGBTQ community. For example, in 2015, gay marriage was legalized across the United States. Yay! That was definitely a huge win. Only, 4 years later, the Trump administration struck a huge blow by trying to roll back a rule that protected the LGBTQ community from discrimination when trying to adopt a child. On Friday, his administration finalized a rule that, similarly, allows discrimination when it comes to health care and health insurance. This can not stand!
I see hatred and fear on my Facebook or Instagram every day, people saying terrible things about LGBTQ rights and the community themselves. I see people who have not educated themselves sticking their noses in about trans men and women, like who has the right to use what bathroom, and what they identify as rather than how they were born. Guess what? It’s none of your damn business, Karen!
There was a blog I wrote a while back about Dwayne Wade and his his 12 year old transgender daughter, Zaya. Wade was beautifully accepting of her, as was the rest of their family. Meanwhile, a rapper named Lil Boosie went on to beg Wade not to “cut his (child’s) d—- off” (by the way, that was never even a question - gender reassignment surgery is not performed on minors) and to “let him be gay if he wanna be gay” but that he shouldn’t address his daughter as a woman, since Zaya was born as a male. This sort of thing is what I mean, when I talk about intolerance and lack of knowledge and education. There’s plenty of that around, unfortunately, as I found when I wrote that article and I had a few people reach out to me saying that they agreed with Lil Boosie. All I could think was: how can you agree with that spiteful, ignorant man?
Unfortunately, even a hero of mine has lately disappointed me, someone I’m sure you know as well and have seen in the news: J.K. Rowling. In what is being described as a terrifyingly transphobic tweet, Rowling says: “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.” This ignited a hot debate about trans men and women, and made many people beg others to boycott her franchise.
So what do we do about all this hatred and injustice? If, after 51 years, we still haven’t gotten as far as we needed to? First, we must educate educate educate - ourselves and others. Explore books and history about the LGBTQ community, read blogs and listen to podcasts. It’s not their community’s job to educate you, it’s yours. Donate to the Human Rights Campaign if and when you can, as they are always pushing for LGBTQ rights and raising awareness. When you see something, say something: whether it’s your uncle at thanksgiving saying something derogatory about the LGBTQ community, or your favorite author writing a questionable tweet, speak up. They need your support.
And finally, enjoy the victories, and celebrate. Happy pride month!