Black Trans Lives Matter

Photo thanks to @thefive15

Just because events are cancelled this June doesn’t mean that pride is cancelled. Of course, there will not be pride parades happening this summer but pride is so much more than a physical space or event. Pride is a feeling. Pride is a celebration. Pride is a protest. Pride is a riot. Pride is a recognition of LGBTQ+ history.

History of Pride

Pride month is June as a commemoration of the Stonewall Riot that happened in New York in June 1969. The Stonewall Riots began as a result of a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in the Greenwich Village in New York City. Police roughly hauling employees and bar patrons out onto the street led to a riot followed by six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement. 

Officers in the initial Stonewall raid singled out drag queens and other cross-dressing patrons for arrest as it was illegal to “masquerade” as a member of the opposite sex. 

What exactly kicked off the riots that night is unclear though witness reports that it was a result of a few individuals resisting arrests. 

Stormé DeLarverie a black lesbian activist who was dressed masculinely was said to have resisted arrest and urged the crowd to rise up; two transgender women of colour Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were said to have resisted arrest and thrown the first brick at the cops. Though in an interview Johnson is quoted saying she didn’t show up at the riot until it was well underway. 

Though regardless of who exactly incited the riot at Stonewall it was turning point for the gay rights movement as a result of black and transgender people fighting back against the police. 

At that time it was illegal to engage in gay behaviour in public, which included holding hands, kissing or dancing with someone of the same sex. As a result, gay clubs were a place of refuge for LGBTQ+ people where they could express themselves openly. However, they were often shut down due to the fact “the gathering of homosexuals was disorderly.” So, these types of raids were common during that period as was police harassment. 

From Riot to Pride

The year following the Stonewall riot the term ‘gay pride’ was coined. Even though members of the LGBTQ+ community were harassed and persecuted they could choose to have pride in themselves and their identity. Though pride was not always a celebration. Pride was a fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and it still is. We’ve made significant progress in LGBTQ+ rights, especially in Canada, but there is still a lot of work to be done as those rights are not shared equally among the entire community. 

Read more about the significance of ‘pride’ in the LGBTQ+ community in this Bustle article

Since we have made so much progress in the LGBTQ+ community, and pride has become more of a celebration, many of us have different ideas of what pride means. 

To me, pride means finally being comfortable in a body I felt was objectified in a way I never consented to. Part of me wanted to say a body I felt trapped in since this is a common transgender narrative, but that doesn’t feel true to me. I don’t believe I ever felt trapped in my body, rather I felt I wasn’t seen the way I wanted to be. Pride means having the freedom to love out loud and in a way that makes me happy and feel validated and accepted (Read my other article on my experience being transgender and gay). Pride means supporting my community and the people that are a part of it. That means fighting for the rights of others, supporting those who are not able to come out yet and being visible for those who need a role model.

Pride is More Than a Celebration

Pride is more than just a celebration. Many organizations coordinate their annual fundraising around pride events. They rely on that funding to support the important work they do in the community. So, one thing we can do this year is to donate to the organizations that need our support if we are able.

Here are some black-led LGBTQ+ organizations you can donate to:

LGBTQ+ Freedom Fund: They post bail to secure the safety and liberty of LGBT people in jail and immigration detention and raises awareness of the epidemic of LGBTQ over-incarceration. 

Trans Justice Funding Project: It’s a community-led funding initiative supporting grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people. 

Black Visions Collective: A black, trans, and queer led organization that is committed to dismantling systems of oppression and violence, and shifting the narrative to create transformative, long-term change. 

Center for Black Equity: An organization committed to supporting leaders, institutions, and programs for health, economic and social equity for black LGBTQ people. 

The Marsha P. Johnson Institute: Protects and defends the human rights of black transgender people by organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promoting creative power. 

The Okra Project: A collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by black trans people by bringing home-cooked meals and resources to the community. 

The National Black Justice Coalition: A civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of black LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS, with the mission of ending racism and stigma towards LGBTQ people. 

The Black Trans Advocacy Coalition: A national organization led by black trans people to collectively address the inequities faced in the black transgender human experience.

 

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