It’s Pride Month and I am proud to say that this month, I will become Citizen Action’s first LGBTQ+ Executive Director in its 40 year history!
I think that understanding the roots of Pride Month, and the history of LGBTQ+ organizing, is incredibly meaningful and relevant to the fights we are in today.
The first Pride started as a way to memorialize the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. The unrest began during a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn – a bar that was frequented by trans women, gay femmes, lesbians and other gender non-conforming queer people. At the time, police had the legal right to “verify” someone’s biological sex by violating their bodily autonomy and humiliating them. But that night, as the story goes, a trans woman reached her breaking point and said no way, not this time, not again.
And a revolution was born…
The past 50 years of LGBTQ+ organizing has been full of inspiring and successful action.
In the 1980s, the AIDS crisis spurred major activism moments – like the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall, and the ACT UP demonstrations in NYC – in the fight for health care, human dignity and better medical research.
The 1990s saw growing activism for civil rights and public visibility, such as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation and the Dyke Marches which began in NYC and spread across the country.
The early 2000s welcomed a united push for marriage equality, after Congress passed the bigoted “Defense of Marriage” Act in 1996. LGBTQ+ people were excluded from the benefits of marriage until the 2015 Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Recent years have seen the rise of activism for trans rights and trans visibility. Trans people are currently experiencing hateful political attacks by extremists and an ongoing epidemic of fatal violence, especially against Black and Brown trans women.
LGBTQ+ people know that we have to organize, organize, organize – because alone we are vulnerable, but together we are unstoppable.
In Black, Brown and low income communities like the one I grew up in, LGBTQ communities were gathering together and confronting the AIDS epidemic while finding joy in balls where we danced and witnessed Vogue.
Today we have staff that keep that vibrant and beautiful dance alive. The beautiful, rich, colorful, and courageous movements of the LGBTQ+ community should be an inspiration to us all.
We’ve got news for the bigots – we’re here to stay! Society has changed and we won’t go back. They can try, but we’re coming back stronger and on a whole different vibe – because we believe in the power of LOVE!
In strength and unity,
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