June Feature: Happy Pride!
Welcome to the June issue of Diversity Rules Magazine. It is pride season! I hope you are planning to attend a pride celebration near you, in whatever form it may be held in these pandemic times, as they are an important and integral component of the fabric of queer life. It is that special time of year when queer folk and allies throughout the nation and the world come together to celebrate their individuality, and the diversity of our humanity.
More importantly, it is a time for us to remember those who put their lives on the line back in 1969, on that hot, summer night in NYC when a group of patrons at the Stonewall Inn rebelled against police persecution. They pushed back when the bar was once again raided by police, like so many times before, simply because it was a gay bar. We must keep the memory of those who stood their ground that night and said, “NO MORE.” Little did these brave patrons know that their action that night would reverberate around the world, and foster what would become the modern-day gay rights movement.
Pride has certainly evolved since that fateful night in 1969. As the decades since Stonewall passed by us, and the anger and rebellion subsided, our movement also seemed to lose its rebelliousness, and became much more “controlled.” While we certainly have had our moments of protest, they have been nowhere near the zeal and fervor that once characterized the gay rights movement from a bygone era.
As time passed by, and rights were gained, with the most predominant being the right to marry, the advocacy has become diluted and obfuscated by a more academic, and corporate-controlled movement. There is a desire by many “leaders” in our movement who seem to not want to offend anyone, and their sensibilities of right and wrong, and what is moral or immoral. Some wish to squelch the individuality of many in our big tent who reside and are more comfortable in the fringes, which tend to raise the eyebrows of those non-queer advocates, and supporters, and of our detractors … the very same folks who rebelled against the police in the summer of 1969 and were deemed heroes of our movement. There seems to be a feeling that we need to brush these folks under the rug and hide them to not offend anyone, and place focus on the more academic advocacy of our movement.
Pride is about the empowerment of individuality. This empowerment is relative and is certainly subject to interpretation. Some see empowerment in having a stripe in a flag, or a letter in the alphabet stew acronym, or the use of pronouns to describe one’s individuality. These debates seem to rage in academic circles and create dissension and angst among those who feel these components of our movement need to take precedence. Those who cannot see the urgency of making these issues the all-encompassing ones that those who advocate for them are doing, oftentimes are accused by those who are in the forefront of making such issues the focus, as somehow not being empathetic and understanding of others’ needs and feelings. While these debates are important and should happen, and if they make folks feel better and it empowers their individuality, then, by all means, embrace and promote these concerns. The big tent is all about diversity and understanding. However, our big tent seems to have a lot more folks who discard positions that do not align with their perceptions of diversity and understanding grounded in a more academic perspective.
Today’s queer rights movement certainly does not have the rebellious vigor that it had in the ’60s and 70’s when Harvey Milk and others were taking to the streets. However, times change. These kinds of protests were endemic to the period as it was a turbulent time in America, generally. We now seem to rely on a legislative process with legislators who oftentimes do not understand the needs of the queer constituencies they serve. They say they do, and their efforts are certainly appreciated, but the focus is on who can lobby them better.
While there are still battles to wage and win, many states controlled by very conservative legislatures have taken steps to turn back the clock on queer rights as much as they can. We are in the midst of a war for transgender rights, which seems to be the new battle cry for Republicans and others hell-bent on infringing their views and lifestyles onto others they deem immoral and/or deviant. They do not respect the fact that there are those whose gender identity does not match their outward appearance. We have a long way to go yet before our trans brothers and sisters are recognized and accepted for who they truly are. It would be so wonderful to see a new rebellious, into the streets movement that embodies the spirit of Stonewall and Milk to push this remaining frontier forward. Will that happen? Doubtful.
In many respects, our movement has become stale and worn, like an old shoe. We are in the midst of a society that maintains a “what’s in it for me” attitude, where apathy and indifference seem to predominate if a particular issue does not directly impact someone. Technological and academic advocacy seems to be where things are at, instead of flesh on flesh, loud gatherings in front of state capitols, and other places to make views heard.
Where do we go from here? Who knows really? We have a lot of work to do to achieve full and equal rights for not only queer folks, but for minorities and others who have fallen victim to the prejudice, hate, and fear that has overtaken our nation. It is time to take it back from those who wish to squelch diversity and respect for others and who they are. It is time to let people live their lives in peace as the individuals they are. I certainly hope we can do it. I think we can! Can it be done doing what we have been doing? That remains to be seen.
Make this pride season one that is about individual empowerment in whatever form it may come. We have certainly come too far to let those who wish to turn the clocks back to an earlier time where individual rights were compromised and taken away if they did not jive with the established views of the white, straight world that did not recognize the inherent differences in those around them. American is about diversity and acceptance. We are back on track with those objectives, but we must be ever vigilant that they are not derailed again!