Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Opinion Director
For many newly out Panthers who planned on celebrating Pride for the first time this year, anticipation turned to sadness when it became clear that the pandemic wouldn’t end in time for June.
As Pride Month approached and students came to terms with the fact that they’d have to celebrate from home, our nation was struck by another tragedy.
On May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was murdered by asphyxiation at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers—one of whom knelt on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. His death was one of many racially motivated attacks committed against Black people in the United States—and not just this year.
The outrage that has ensued since Floyd’s murder has been long-brewing. Systemic racism is ingrained in America’s history. It was long overdue that our nation came together in support of Black lives and to challenge America’s law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
On social media and off of it, I’ve seen a lot of debate on what that means for Pride Month. Even here at PantherNOW, we’ve had conversations about how to properly cover Pride while still maintaining the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement going on nationwide. At least on Twitter, lots of people seem to agree that “Pride can wait.”
I’m here to tell you that that’s not true.
Now especially, it’s time to evaluate what Pride means, and who is most often left out of the equation when we celebrate. It’s also time to acknowledge that all Black lives matter—and that includes the lives of Black queer and trans folks.
Of the three Black women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement, two—Alicia Garza and Patrisse Khan-Cullors—are openly queer. Garza’s activism especially has challenged the notion that it’s only cisgendered men who suffer state-sanctioned violence within the Black community.
And as you may already know, the Stonewall riots were started by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of color. The former, a Black drag performer and gay liberation activist, was found dead in 1992, shortly after that year’s Pride parade. The NYPD ruled her death a suicide and refused to investigate further, even though there was reason to believe that it had been a hate crime.
Johnson’s death was just another example of how our law enforcement often disfavors both Black Americans and the LGBT community, with Black trans people (and especially Black trans women), suffering the biggest burden.
Among the countless petitions floating around Twitter, not enough attention has been directed to the one demanding justice for Tony McDade, a Black trans man also killed by an officer in our own state on May 27—two days after Floyd’s death. A fundraiser is also being organized on behalf of McDade’s mother for counseling and funeral expenses.
Monday, June 1 also saw the circulation of a video depicting a mob of violence beating Iyanna Dior, a Black trans woman, in Minneapolis—the same city Floyd died in. Many Black trans public figures such as Amiyah Scott and Racquel Willis have since denounced the actions of the perpetrators in the video and called for cisgendered men in their community to do better, reminding everyone that Black Lives Matter champions all Black lives.
Pride has always been about challenging authority and celebrating the freedom for people to love who they want and be who they are. This means fighting on behalf of Black queer folks too.
As much as we love every member of the LGBT community, being an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement comes with accepting the fact that white gays have controlled the narrative on the queer liberation front for far too long. We have a long way to go before equality is achieved within the community, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
To say “Pride can wait” is to ignore the intersectional nature of both Black Lives Matter and queer lib. It’s discrediting the efforts of the queer Black and brown women who founded both movements, as well as the plight of some of our country’s most marginalized citizens.
Now more than ever, it’s important to stand in solidarity with one another.
Featured image by A. Breaux on Flickr.
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