In past years, I’ve always been very excited about Pride month. It’s a time to celebrate, come together as a community, and enjoy being yourself without judgment from those around you. I’ve attended parades, genuinely felt supported and accepted by my community, and had moments where I felt not just at ease, but proud of my queer identity. In past Pride blog posts, I’ve shared stories of queer elders and historical figures, details of how Pride parades have evolved, and examples of books old and new that portrayed positive representations of queer people. But in being honest with myself, in recent years, it has also become hard to celebrate each Pride month. I’m still excited for Pride, but the month also reminds me that even as we find acceptance among our peers, queer people are facing increased discrimination and adversity from outside our community.
With the general idea of Pride month focused on how far the queer community has come, it can be a surprise to many people to learn that there have also been huge setbacks as well. Many believe that with recent steps like the legalization of gay marriage in 2015 and the 2020 Supreme Court ruling that federal law protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, LGBTQ+ people have successfully fought for and won their equality in the United States. But despite these positive steps, there have been increasing amounts of discrimination in many different forms, including things like a 20% increase in hate crimes against trans people each year for the last three years. These hate crimes include anything from workplace discrimination to murdering queer people, and among those targeted and killed, the most marginalized identities like that of trans women, and especially trans women of color, are targeted at the highest rates. Since 2013, the Human Rights Campaign has found that of fatal violence against queer people, 85% has been against trans women, and 66% against specifically Black trans women. Additionally, there has been a higher number of trans people killed each year, with the number almost doubling in just one year—between 2019 and 2020.
Besides hate crimes between individuals, there has also been what many in the queer community argue is targeted discrimination through state and federal legislation across the country. 2021 saw a new record of 268 bills introduced that were deemed to be anti-LGBTQ+ by the Human Rights Campaign, and as of May 2022, this record has already been smashed with 325 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced so far this year (for more information about the discriminatory impacts and history of this legislation, check out this article from the Fenway Institute). Those that have been signed into law include state level bans on transgender children playing sports with other members of their gender, bans on transgender people using bathrooms other than that of the sex they were incorrectly assigned at birth, bans on educational institutions discussing sexual orientation or gender identity, and laws that make it illegal for healthcare providers to treat transgender minors. Other bills that haven’t passed include attempts to restrict healthcare access for transgender people under the age of 25, requiring Child Protective Services to investigate parents that support their trans children, and many more. And polls from the Trevor Project have shown that even when bills don’t pass, the political discourse and debate regarding the rights of LGBTQ+ people have had a negative impact on the mental health of queer youth.
I don’t share these harsh statistics because I think Pride isn’t worth celebrating, or because queer communities haven’t made gains in society. Instead, I hope to highlight that despite all the LGBTQ+ rights that have been hard fought for and won, these rights can very quickly be revoked if that motivation to fight for equality isn’t kept alive. And this motivation to fight for equal rights, whether that be in public opinion, legislatively, or otherwise, cannot be successful if it is only fought for by queer people themselves. Just as the fight against racism needs white people to be willing to make themselves uncomfortable and discuss race and racism, the fight against homophobia and transphobia needs cisgender, straight people that are willing to feel uncomfortable or awkward and speak up against LGBTQ+ discrimination whenever they see it, whether that be in their local government, calling out discriminatory comments made by a friend or family, or regularly examining one’s own beliefs and privilege in order to combat potential prejudice. Allies are crucial in any fight against marginalization, and there are countless ways they can create a more welcoming world for queer people (for more information about being a better ally, check out this article from Vox).
With Pride being a time to celebrate great successes, but also rally around the cause of furthering LGBTQ+ equality, I want to end this post with resources that might allow allies, plus queer people themselves, the ability to feel more confident in initiating conversations and furthering change. Check out this list for recommendations on books about the fight for queer rights so far, the discrimination that is ongoing, and what we can do to create a more equal world.