What is Pride Month?
This June, once again, we celebrate Pride Month, a month dedicated to the struggles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer people. Today, LGBTQ+ people are in a fierce fight for their right to exist and be free. We need to recognize and uplift their important contributions to society. We also need to protect their very lives, their right to thrive in the face of a backlash orchestrated by extreme-right wing groups, pushed by politicians who are tools of the rich, using hatred as the pole to vault them into office.
The First Pride was an Uprising to Remember
Pride Month was established to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising. Stonewall was a gay bar in the 1960s in New York City, and one of the few places that queer people could socialize openly. Police periodically raided bars like Stonewall, arresting and physically or sexually assaulting their patrons. During one of these raids, on June 28, 1969, the patrons of Stonewall didn’t just sit back and wait to get arrested. They put up a fight. And neighbors didn’t just walk on by. They joined the fight. Within minutes, hundreds of people were resisting the police violence. This had become a riot. The police became outnumbered and scared, and eventually barricaded themselves inside the bar.
For five more days, protests erupted in the city, sometimes including thousands of people. On the one-year anniversary of the riot, several demonstrators marched past the old Stonewall bar, marking the first Pride Parade. Though this event was not the first instance of LGBTQ+ people fighting back against police violence or discrimination, it has come to symbolize the beginning of a movement.
Stonewall was one chapter among many, in decades of struggle. The fight is continuing today, as much as ever, and it is part of the fight for the liberation of Black people, Latinx people, women, and all the oppressed. This system cares only for profits, and manipulates us all to feel hatred of “the other” so that we ignore our real enemies.
What Are We Up Against Today?
Most recently, on May 17, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed four bills into law: a ban on gender affirming care, an expanded “don’t say gay” bill, an anti-drag bill and a law making it criminal for trans people to use a bathroom that corresponds to their gender. But this is just the most recent in a landslide of attacks. In 2023, according to the ACLU, 452 anti-trans bills were introduced into state legislatures. In Idaho and Indiana, bans on gender-affirming care for minors were recently passed, while in Kansas, the state legislature passed a bill to ban trans women and girls from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity. All of this comes during a wave of attacks by far-right media on so-called “gender ideology” – which has been a rallying cry for the far-right.
Trans people in the U.S. are four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than cisgender people, according to a 2021 study. The mental health of trans youth, the primary target of recent anti-trans legislation, has been significantly impacted by these harmful bills. Recent studies have shown that 86 percent of trans youth report negative effects on their mental health, and nearly half report to have seriously considered suicide in the past year. At the same time, trans and LGBTQ+ people have been targeted in mass shootings. Far-right militias have shown up armed at LGBTQ+ events, such as Pride, and drag performances, often displaying swastikas.
The overall attack is being orchestrated by groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that does nothing but attack our freedom, as well as the Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, and the Heritage Foundation. Posing as a grassroots upsurge to protect “parents’ rights” and to fight “gender ideology”, these national organizations are opposing the actual rights of parents and their LGBTQ+ children with a propaganda campaign that feeds on fear and ignorance. They have found a lever to move a portion of the population to support their right-wing agenda. Today that lever is transphobia and homophobia generally, and it is helping them attack all of our rights, using the antidemocratic electoral system as well as the lower courts and the Supreme Court. The Republican politicians such as DeSantis care less about whether the bills pass, and are more concerned that they motivate transphobic voters to show up at the polls and vote Republican, nation-wide.
But the Democrats refuse to come to the defense of trans people in a way that would actually tip the scales of public opinion. They say wait for legislation, elect us, we’ll protect you. But how is that enough in the face of this onslaught?
To push back the wave of attacks, to change the point of view of the millions who are captives of the right-wing propaganda onslaught, there need to be millions in the streets, changing the narrative, making the humanity of trans people evident to all, along with the inhumanity of their attackers.
How Will We Win?
Right now, there are local protests of many kinds. On Thursday, May 18, graduates of the New College of Florida held an alternative commencement ceremony in protest of DeSantis’ conservative takeover of their college. In addition, thousands of people came out across the country to protest on March 31. The testimony from trans youth at these rallies completely destroyed the narrative being pushed by the far-right that gender-affirming care for minors is harmful. Rhydian Gonzalez, an 18-year-old student, said, “Transitioning saved my life and so many others and I think it’s so important that people understand that…Without it I don’t think I would be here.”
The fight back, the protests, the organizing locally and nationally needs to continue and grow. Loud and clear we must say that these right-wing politicians and religious organizations, and courts, should have no say when it comes to our bodies, our health care access, or our gender identity. We can’t have any illusions that this political system will solve the problem. The most important battles in the fight for liberation don’t happen at the ballot box — they happen in the streets, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces when people get organized, and link arms, not separated by identity but uniting our forces together against the right-wing attacks. Groups that are protesting these attacks must redouble their organizing, and link arms with the other targets of the extreme right. When we pour out into the streets we can make a mighty counter-attack!
Let’s celebrate Pride this June by fighting for what we deserve!