It feels different this year.
June is LGBTQ Pride month in the United States. Originally known as “Gay Pride Day” and observed on the last Sunday in June, the first pride march took place on June 28th, 1970 in NYC. The date of the first pride march had historic significance, marking one year after police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. After the raid, protests and riots ensued for days, ultimately serving as the impetus for the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement. Fast forward to June 2020 and Pride now takes shape in many forms, with events and celebrations around the country and world.
On the one hand, pride feels a little different every year. Over the course of five decades, it has transformed from something radical to something much more mainstream. Pride events encompass joy, celebration, commemoration, mourning, loss, gains, and so much more. Marchers no longer face the same levels or types of uncertainty and fear that the brave souls traversing the 51 blocks from Christopher Street to Central Park did in 1970. Today’s Pride parades are family friendly and have floats. Some even criticize Pride today as too commercialized, corporatized, and merchandized. But overall, with the incredible achievements towards LGBTQ equality over the last decade, Pride has shifted from a protest to a celebration. Until now.
2020 has been a whirlwind of illness, unease, unrest, and contradictions. COVID-19 took the world by storm, leading to a deluge in cases and deaths, record-breaking unemployment, a taxed healthcare system, massive shutdowns and self-isolation. Our communities are stressed and uncertainty is everywhere. With quarantine as the new norm, many Pride events were postponed or canceled. It seemed Pride might pass us by this year with significantly less fanfare than what we’ve become accustomed to, as we all explored new ways to acknowledge occasions and connect with our community while navigating a pandemic.
And then on March 13th, in Louisville KY, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed while in her bed by police executing a no-knock warrant as they searched for men who turned out to already be in police custody. On May 5th, a video of the February 23rd shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Glyn County, Georgia, by two men who chased him down with their pickup truck went viral, leading to the arrest of both men two days later and multiple questions as to why no arrest occurred at the time of Arbery’s murder. On May 25th, George Floyd was killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while onlookers pleaded for the officer to stop or for his colleagues to intervene. Seemingly overnight, streets that had been empty were filled by people who saw no other recourse but to march. In the weeks since, in all 50 states and around the world, tens of thousands of protesters continue to demand justice for the countless deaths of Black people at the hands of police. We are in the midst of a massive civil rights movement, the likes of which hasn’t occurred in the United States for 50 years – since the decade that ended with the raid on the Stonewall Inn.
This year, Pride must return to its roots in the fight for civil rights and must explore its intersection with Black Lives Matter. We must navigate these dynamics with a willingness toward self-reflection and productive self-critique. We must face the complexity of predominantly white LGBTQ advocacy groups rekindling Pride parades with the intention of standing in solidarity with the Black community, only to neglect including queer Black voices in the planning. We must grapple with changes in policy that roll back transgender health protections the same week as a monumental Supreme Court decision declaring LGBTQ individuals protected under anti-discrimination laws. We must consider the greater impact of these changes on the Black LGBTQ community. We must honor social justice as an intersectional endeavor, while centering the conversation around Black voices, in recognition of the crisis at hand.
Like years before, this Pride, we stand and march, but this year, we march with renewed intentions. We look to examples of the throngs that did find a way to come together this past weekend in Los Angeles, New York, and beyond to somberly and definitively state:
All Black Lives Matter.
Trans Black Lives Matter.
Queer Black Lives Matter.
Disabled Black Lives Matter.
Fat Black Lives Matter.
Incarcerated Black Lives Matter.
It’s different this year. It must be.