I like to say there was something in the air at Pride 2017, as it was one of the most contentious in the event’s history. Many, however, in our LGBTQ communities say the tension was always present.
Pride parades will be taking place across the country this month. And, as we all rev up for this year’s festivities, so, too, will the fault lines of race, gender identity and class emerge.
In addition to the main Pride events taking place in many major cities and towns, there will be segments of our communities — from women to trans people to people of color — holding their own.
Pride is about the varied expressions of the life, gifts, and talents of the entire community. But the divisions in our communities during Pride also show us something troubling and broken within ourselves. And, last year a Black queer resistance rose up — across the country and beyond — denouncing the glib notion that “gay is the new Black.”
For example, last year, Philadelphia memorably had a controversy over its new Pride flag. Black and brown stripes were added to the rainbow flag as part of the city’s campaign “More Color More Pride” to visibly include people of color in the celebrations.
Sadly, the growing distance between our larger White LGBTQ community and LGBTQ communities of color is shown by how, for example, a health issue like HIV/AIDS, which was once an entire LGBTQ community problem, is now predominately impacting communities of color.
LGBTQ people of African descent have focused not only on HIV/AIDS and same-sex marriage but also unemployment, housing, gang violence, and LGBTQ youth homelessness, to name a few.
Many LGBTQ people of African descent and Latinos argue that the gulf between Whites and themselves is also about how the dominant queer community rewrote and continued to control the history of Stonewall.
The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City, started on the backs of working-class African American and Latinx queers who patronized that bar.
Those Brown and Black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but they are also bleached from its written history. Because of the bleaching, the beginning of the LGBTQ movement post-Stonewall is an appropriation of a Black, Brown, trans, and queer liberation narrative. And, it is the deliberate visible absence of these African American, Latino, and API LGBTQ people that makes it harder, if not near impossible, for LGBTQ communities to build trusted coalitions with white LGBTQ communities.
With advances such as hate crime laws, legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, and with homophobia viewed as a national concern, the LGBTQ movement has come a long way since the first Pride March in 1969.
Many laud the distance the LGBTQ community has traveled in such a short time from a disenfranchised group on the fringe of America’s mainstream to a community now embraced. But, not all members of our community have crossed the finish line. Some are waving the cautionary finger that within our community not all are equal. And Pride events can be public displays of those disparities.
Cultural acceptance is just one of a few things LGBTQ people of color do not experience. Many Pride celebrations are predominately White, and many LGBTQ of color revelers experience social exclusion and invisibility within these spaces. After decades of Pride events where many LGBTQ people of color tried to be included and weren’t, Black, Asian and Latino Pride events were born.
Fighting among ourselves
As we feud with one another this is what is at stake — the erosion of our protections.
For example, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the “Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission” case. The court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple due to his religious beliefs.
Since President Trump has taken office, there has been an erosion of LGBTQ civil rights under the guise of religious liberty. There are bills called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that are a backlash to the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.
Lawmakers want to use them to codify LGBTQ discrimination to justify denying us services on state and local levels, and Trump is in lockstep with these discriminatory practices.
Meanwhile, transgender Americans being denied access to public lavatories is eerily reminiscent of the country’s Jim Crow era, denying African Americans access to lunch counters, water fountains, and, libraries, gas stations, theaters, and restrooms.
Then there are the laws passed in Kansas and Oklahoma that allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children in the homes of families they find morally reprehensible (a.k.a. us).
Where do we go from here?
Where we go from here now, in my opinion, is in recognizing the need to network and build coalitions beyond one’s immediate communities; thus, creating an intersectional social justice activism throughout our cities and towns to foster healthy and wholesome communities.
While Pride events are still fraught with divisions, at their core, Pride events are an invitation for communities to connect their political activism with their celebratory acts of song and dance in its continued fight for justice. They should highlight the multicultural aspect of joy and celebration that symbolizes not only our uniqueness as individuals and communities but also affirms our varied expressions of LGBTQIA life in America.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.
Rev. Irene Monroe is an African American lesbian feminist public theologian, sought-after speaker, and preacher.