Submitted by Emma Lenski, M.S., LGBTQIA Services Coordinator Family Resource Center at 18 Degrees
As Pride Month comes to a close, I wanted to make a statement about its ongoing significance. LGBTQ rights in this country have a long history, with the well-known Stonewall Riots being a catalyst for future change. Of course, we know that there were activists both before and after the Stonewall Riots who made significant impacts as well, but the riots themselves helped make the struggles of the LGBTQ population more publicly visible in a lot of ways.
The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in Greenwich Village, NYC. During its operation, it was illegal to be publicly gay, and many people were arrested for doing so. This would be published in the newspaper with their names and sometimes their photograph, and the people arrested would end up being fired from their jobs due to “conducting homosexual activity”. Needless to say, there were a lot of risks involved. The police were aware of the fact that gay people frequented the Stonewall Inn, and would therefore conduct violent raids. Starting on June 28, 1969, trans women of color as well as a group of gay men who were fed up with the abuse they had experienced at the hands of the police, rioted and fought back over the course of five days.
The following year, on June 28, the same group of folks held the first-ever Pride March on the street in front of the Inn, as a protest and demand for equal rights. Thousands of people showed up in support. Because of this first Pride March, we have what has evolved over the past 52 years into what we now know as Pride Parades and Festivals. This is why it is so important to have these events–to show that we are still here, fighting for our rights, just as we have been since 1969 (and long before)!
The passing of legislation in 2015 to legalize gay marriage across the nation–not just state-by-state–was a very significant piece of history as well. Prior to this, if folks were married, say, in Massachusetts (which legalized gay marriage in 2004), but then moved to a state where it was not legalized, their marriage would no longer be valid and they wouldn’t receive the same rights and privileges they had been granted in Massachusetts. In 2016, Obama declared June National LGBTQ Pride Month, which was another huge move towards acceptance and recognition as a community.
It is amazing that we have a month to celebrate LGBTQ folks, their accomplishments, and to recognize their struggles. However, it is important to consider these aspects all year long, and ensure our work as human service workers is inclusive and actively anti-phobic. Anti-phobic work means actively working against ideals and systems that oppress and marginalize LGBTQ people. Correcting someone when they misgender (use the wrong name or pronouns) someone, even if that person isn’t in the room to hear, is an example of active anti-phobic work. Discussing LGBTQ artists, musicians, etc., and incorporating their work into your lesson plans or curriculum is another example. The rates of LGBTQ suicidality, especially among youth, are alarming in this country. Anything we can do (both in and outside of our roles at 18 Degrees) to lessen those numbers should be considered year-round, not only during June.
At 18 Degrees we offer safe, inclusive, equitable, accessible, and healthy space for youth and young adults, to live out loud and be their authentic selves. Check out our Safe Spaces page for a full list of offerings.