Election 2020 LGBT Rights

FILE - In this June 30, 2019, file photo parade-goers carrying rainbow flags walk down a street during the LBGTQ Pride march in New York, to celebrate five decades of LGBTQ pride, marking the 50th anniversary of the police raid that sparked the modern-day gay rights movement. Democrats flooded Twitter and email inboxes this week with praise for the watershed Supreme Court decision shielding gay, lesbian and transgender people from job discrimination. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

In recent years, Pride has been a time for members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as allies to take to the streets, engaging in celebrations and marches and coming together as a community full of love, support and, well, pride. But this year Pride celebrations were already going to look drastically different even before the murder of George Floyd.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement should resonate with everyone as a reaction against human rights violations, but it should especially resonate with the LGBTQ+ community whose own members are often targeted.

In the U.S. alone, at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people, most of them Black transgender women, lost their lives due to violence in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In 2020, at least 15 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been murdered, many of them Black: Monika Diamond on March 18, Nina Pop on May 3, Tony McDade on May 27, Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells and Riah Milton on June 9. And these are only the cases that get reported. 

Often these stories go unreported or are misreported. Too often in police statements or media reports of anti-transgender violence victims are misgendered which not only skews available data and awareness but also refuses these people the proper respect they deserve.

Prior to May 25 this year, a lot of Pride events were canceled or moved to online platforms because of COVID-19, but in light of recent events Pride has been refocused in order to support and stand in solidarity with the BLM movement. Refocusing Pride towards solidarity with BLM makes perfect sense. Pride began with a community standing together to fight back against police violence, and Pride 2020 is just going back to its roots.

On June 25, 1969, a young Black transgender activist, sex worker and drag queen named Marsha P. Johnson was celebrating her birthday at the Stonewall Inn, one of the few places in New York that the gay community — and its most marginalized members at that — could gather free of ridicule and harassment. On that night, however, the police raided Stonewall under false pretenses and began harassing and arresting patrons until the crowd which had gathered decided enough was enough. A violent riot broke out and soon the call to action spread throughout all of New York.

Johnson was one of the first to fight back against the police and soon after, another transgender woman of color, Sylvia Rivera, founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and dedicated her life to fighting for equality. Thanks to people like Johnson and Rivera, women are willing to risk their lives standing up to injustice, and days of rioting and violence can now safely be celebrated with a month of Pride.

This year, Pride organizers in major cities across the U.S., including Boston and Austin, used their events and platforms to elevate Black voices and advocate for change. While overall these marches have been uplifting and successful, some, like the march held in Los Angeles on June 14, have sparked controversy for their lack of intersectionality and inclusion of Black leadership. Even with a couple bumpy starts, the movement towards solidarity is an encouraging one.

Pride 2020 isn’t canceled; don’t let the lack of celebrations in the French Quarter fool you. It’s just taken a step back to support and uplift the voices of its Black community members who are asking to be heard. Refocusing Pride isn’t just about supporting BLM or “reading the room,” it’s very personal.

All members of the LGBTQ community deserve to feel safe and accepted, but right now Black transgender and gender non-conforming members don’t have that luxury, so it’s time to put on your loudest rainbow t-shirt and stand in solidarity to stop the hate. 

Marie Plunkett is a 21-year-old Classical Studies major from New Orleans, Louisiana. 

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