Pride Month is usually a time for celebration and reflection. However, this year’s gay Pride is happening in the middle of a global health crisis and civil unrest. As worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality are taking place, several LGBTQ organizations are refocusing their Pride events in alignment with their support for the fight against racial injustice.
Many traditional Pride events around the world have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, LGBTQ organizations that have been unable to proceed with festivities are turning to online spaces to amplify the voices of black people and other people of colour calling for justice. As protestors march through the streets, LGBTQ rights advocates have been reminding those fighting against racism not to overlook the struggles faced by trans people of colour.
Alongside violence and systemic racism, trans people also face higher rates of homelessness, discrimination, hate crime and unemployment. For example, according to a 2016-2018 TransPop survey, the annual unemployment rate for trans adults in the U.S. averaged 12.8 percent, whereas the unemployment rate for the U.S. population overall was between 3.9 and 4.9 percent. A mere two days after George Floyd was murdered, a police officer shot and killed Tony McDade, a 38-year-old black trans man, in Tallahassee, Florida. According to The Human Rights Campaign, McDade’s death is at least the 12th killing of a trans or gender nonconforming person so far this year in the U.S.
Though Pride is a celebration, it is also a political event. In previous years, it has felt as though corporations of all sizes have taken part in ‘rainbow-washing’ during Pride month – taking advantage of Pride in order to push their brand by throwing a rainbow on something or posting a generic “love is love” message while forgetting the real reason why Pride is celebrated every year.
There are brands that claim to support the LGBTQ community, yet don’t show true allyship by implementing effective policies that practice what they preach. This is another way in which Pride and Black Lives Matter overlap. In the past few weeks, countless brands have posted messages of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement whilst not doing any tangible work to push for actual change. This year, amidst the protests, Pride has come at a time that truly resonates with the LGBTQ community’s lengthy history of struggle and oppression.
LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter are connected in many ways. A key moment in the history of the gay rights movement started at Stonewall as a rebellion against police brutality. The uprising was led by women of colour including Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, and Sylvia Rivera. Night after night, police were raiding bars in the community, arresting gay men, lesbians, gender nonbinary people and trans people – throwing them into police cars and sending them to jail, all because they dared to be themselves and to live their authentic lives. So when the New York City Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn at 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969, enough was enough. The Stonewall riots lasted six days. The events of that night were a pivotal moment in LGBTQ history.
51 years later, many members from the LGBTQ community have taken part in the recent protests against police brutality while still in the middle of the current pandemic. Now more than ever, it is vital that our activism is intersectional. The experiences of all black people deserve to be seen and heard. In order to truly progress, the hierarchy that has been created in society to determine which black lives matter the most, must be eradicated. Systemic violence against all black people must end. All black lives matter.
As society is learning and growing, many people are having tough conversations that are necessary for things to change. It is finally time to listen and acknowledge the ways in which transphobia has silenced the voices of trans people who have continuously been ignored in discussions about experiences with violence and racism.
George Floyd’s murder was the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the deep-rooted racial inequalities that shape many of our experiences. Protestors want long overdue change, accountability and equality. The fight must not end there, though. The change that is rightfully being demanded must also include the needs and voices of the black LGBTQ community. By ignoring the voices of the unheard, there is a risk of repeating the same mistakes that have led us to where we are now.
ALL black lives matter.
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