Forty-nine years ago this month, police raided a club in New York. Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera led a group of angry, scared, fed up drag queens, gays, lesbians, and trans men and women in fighting back. It was the spark that became the fire, and it changed everything.
It is the night that allows the young people of Gen Z to be so comfortable with identity that they have designations my generation never even imagined. As someone who fits into one of those designations, I’m equally grateful to my elders who were at a club before I was ever born, and my heirs who taught me the gender binary is a social construct.
But I digress, because the point of this isn’t about me. The point of this is about Pride. Why we have it. Where it comes from. Why it’s June and July these days. And why we still need it.
In April of 2018, according to the BBC (1), there are 36 countries where it is illegal to be part of the LGBTQ community:
Botswana Cameroon Gambia Ghana
Kenya Malawi Mauritius Namibia
Nigeria Sierra Leone Swaziland
Uganda Tanzania Zambia Bangladesh
Brunei Kingdom India Malaysia
Pakistan Singapore Sri Lanka
Antigua and Barbuda Barbados Dominica
Grenada Guyana Jamaica St Lucia
St Kitts and Nevis St Vincent and the Grenadines
Kiribati Papua New Guinea Samoa
Solomon Islands Tonga Tuvalu
India, Kenya, Botswana, and Sri Lanka are moving forward-but we’re still illegal.
In 10 of these countries (2), being LGBTQ is punishable by death: No executions have been reported in Afghanistan, Mauritania, Qatar, or the UAE(3), but the laws still stand.
Afghanistan Iran Mauritania Nigeria Qatar Saudi Arabia Somalia
Sudan United Arab Emirates Yemen
So, what’s my point? To be a Debby Downer during Pride Season? Not at all. But it was only forty-nine years ago that our revolution even began. So many of the young people who were at the Stonewall Inn that night-and they were so young-are still alive and kicking. This isn’t ancient history. And it isn’t over.
We still have laws that prevent us from holding jobs, getting housing, being free from harassment, or being able to share in legal decisions with our spouses. Right here in this country. Trans women are still being murdered at an alarming rate, with barely a nod in their direction or an acknowledgment they ever existed, let alone don’t any longer. And those ten countries up there? The ones who are willing to kill us for being who we are? Our own country voted no on a bill that would tell them they were on the wrong side of the law. The United States told them it was okay to kill us (4)
We must be diligent. We must remember Marsha and Sylvia and all the others who were at Stonewall that night. We must remember the trans women who are hurt and killed because our country says they don’t matter. We must remember the people who are threatened and killed in other countries-and we must remember that our country has condoned it.
As hate is creeping back over the US again, we must remember. And stand. Stand against the hate. Stand with our elders. Stand for our young people. Stand with Pride
(2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/13/hereare-the-10-countries-where-homosexuality-may-be-punished-by-death-2/?utm_ term=.103df62bacd1