Five Decades Since Stonewall: Happy Pride!
50 Years Since Stonewall: LGBTQ Activism Continues
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, New York police conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay club. The move led to six days of protests and was the catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and across the globe.
Today, the activism continues. While we'd like to think of ourselves as somehow more enlightened and more welcoming to people of all walks of life, there continue to be challenges and violence towards those who live as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Transgender women continue to be killed simply for being who they are, while LGBTQ+ youth continue to dominate statistics about homelessness. According to a 2012 Williams Institute study, up to 40 percent of 1.6 million homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. Given that LGBTQ+ youth comprise about 7 percent of the population of the United States, those figures are heartbreaking.
There continue to be kids—and some adults—who use terms like "that's so gay" and use derogatory terms when referring to the LGBTQ+ population. It certainly does not help promote acceptance when there are leaders such as United States president Donald Trump, who has openly removed protections for transgender youth in schools and who has effectively banned transgender individuals from joining the military.
It does not promote acceptance when individuals like Ontario, Canada's premier Doug Ford promote a dated sex education curriculum that does very little to address issues of consent or openly discuss families that might have LGBTQ+ members.
It does not promote acceptance when individuals like Alberta, Canada's premier Jason Kenney has suggested that legislation be put forth that will effectively put educators in a position where they need to disclose to parents if a student joins a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), which could potentially compromise a student's safety if the parents are not supportive.
These are but tips of a series of icebergs in North America, which means that much as we might try to promote the notion that we are enlightened and open to many different lifestyles, this might not always be the case. As such, there continues to be a lot of work that needs to be done in order to promote acceptance for all walks of life.
We need to help each other provide supportive, caring environments so that those who are LGBTQ+ but who might still be closeted feel safe. We need to be mindful of the language we use, not so much because our world has become too politically correct, but because it's the right thing to do. Think about it: we are forever telling our children that if we can't say something kind or positive, we shouldn't say it at all. When did that license of thinking before speaking get revoked?
We also have told our children in the past that "there are other fish in the sea" when they are nursing a broken heart. Well, what if those "other fish" happen to be of the same gender, or agender, or gender fluid? What if our children happen to identify as queer, two-spirited, trans, gender fluid, agender, asexual, or any of the other identities along the spectrum? Are they somehow suddenly unworthy of our love and respect? Are they somehow undeserving of feeling safe and accepted?
There are never stories about straight people having to struggle for the right to love whomever they choose. Straight people aren't thrown out of the house for loving someone of the opposite gender. Why, then, do we subject those who are LGBTQ+ to similar violent behavior and discrimination, if not straight up ostracization?
If my kids decide that they are anywhere along the LGBTQ+ spectrum, I've told them I didn't care, provided that they were decent people and got their homework done. My youngest wants to be a drag queen, and like most queens I've had the pleasure of seeing, I'm sure she'll be fabulous at it. If my daughters want to tell me they've fallen in love with someone in the LGBTQ+ community, fine—I just want them to be happy and healthy.
RuPaul calls upon people watching her show to say "love" from time to time, and during Pride 2019, I think that's what we as a community need to focus on. To do otherwise only promotes further division, and there's enough of that going on. Support each other. Love each other.
All those allies and LGBTQ+ individuals who fought for rights and continue to do so deserve no less than having our love and support.