North Texas Daily

Pride cannot be celebrated without supporting Black Lives Matter

Pride cannot be celebrated without supporting Black Lives Matter

Pride cannot be celebrated without supporting Black Lives Matter
June 25
12:30 2020

Across the U.S., members of the LGBTQ+ community are celebrating Pride 2020 in the most authentic way: by trading parades for protests. The prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement this June is a much-needed reminder that fighting racial injustice and police brutality has always been a part of our gay agenda. It was Black queer folk who led the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and it is Black lives that deserve more validity in the queer community. The silence of queer people on racial equality is a sign of ignorance at best and malice at worst. To act like pride can be celebrated without supporting Black Lives Matter is to white-wash queer history and insult the pioneers of the Gay Liberation movement. 

The Stonewall riots, hailed as the birthplace of the gay rights movement, were sparked by the same police brutality that is still present in modern-day America. Around 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969, the New York City Police Department stormed the Stonewall Inn gay bar. The officers were there to carry out the common practice of harassing, beating and arresting patrons on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity. What was supposed to be a routine raid turned into riots that lasted six days and launched a decades-long fight for equality that still is not over. 

Unlike the white-centric narratives pushed by works like Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film “Stonewall,” Black lesbian, gay, transgender and nonbinary individuals led the June 28 resistance and resulting riots. While the lack of a concrete narrative of that night makes it difficult to confidently attribute acts to specific people, Black activists were undoubtedly crucial. Stormé DeLarverie, a self-identified butch lesbian, is said to have thrown the first punch. As DeLarverie was being taken out of the building in handcuffs, she mobilized the crowd gathered outside by calling on them to act. Marsha P. Johnson, a gender-nonconforming drag queen, is rumored to have thrown a shot glass at a mirror in the burning bar, which was later described as the ‘shot glass heard ‘round the world.’ Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a trans activist, was beaten, arrested and had her jaw broken by a corrections officer for being a driving force of the riots.    

Black and LGBTQ+ relations with the police are still consistently marked by violence. The May 27 shooting of Tony McDade, a trans man, is only the most recent incident in a long list of police shootings involving Black LGBTQ+ members. On June 1, police in full riot gear raided the Blazing Saddles gay bar in Des Moines, Iowa, which was providing first aid to tear-gassed Black Lives Matter demonstrators. In New York City on June 2, queer activists held a rally in front of the Stonewall Inn to protest the murders of Black trans people. As the event was winding down due to the city-wide curfew, police officers beat, arrested and denied medical attention to the unarmed and peaceful attendees.    

This bloody start to Pride 2020 is a wake-up call for the LGBTQ+ community. We have grown used to attending pride events guarded by the same police departments that continue to raid our spaces, beat our activists and unjustly kill people of color. We are meant to tolerate how corporations paint their logos rainbow for June but continue to use homophobic practices and silence Black voices. Now we face the opportunity to answer the challenge once posed by DeLarverie: “Why don’t you guys do something?” 

Just as Black activists fought for queer lives in 1969, LGBTQ+ activists need to step up and fight for Black lives. A pride month driven by protests against systemic racism and police brutality is the best reflection of the celebration’s roots. It is a simple truth that the existence of pride month is inseparable from Black lives. It should be obvious that our celebration of pride month is incomplete without those lives. Even after June is over, the queer community needs to permanently establish itself as a leading voice of support for Black Lives Matter. Four weeks shouldn’t be the cutoff for recognizing the intersection of Black and queer activism. It will never be a bad time to check your privilege and check who fought to give it to you.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Ileana Garnand

Ileana Garnand

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