For over 50 years, June has been celebrated as Pride Month when the pivotal moment of defending the rights of LGBTQ people began with an initial riot at the Stonewall Inn and the subsequent years of protest that followed. Many say that it was Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman, who began the movement by throwing the first bottles. Just as it is today, standing up and speaking truth to power was a pivotal moment of amazing courage which has paved the way for remarkable changes in human rights for the LGBTQ community.
In 2020, this historic drive toward equality was emboldened by the Black Lives Matter movement. What most of us did not understand at that time is how closely related those movements are. Close to 40% of the LGBTQ community identifies as a person of color. What began decades ago as a fight for sexual freedom was in many ways also an uprising against racism.
The personal costs of living at the intersection of racism, homophobia, and transphobia are steep. The statistics are mind-boggling: the unemployment rate for Black transgender people is four times the national average. A startling 41% have experienced homelessness, five times the rate of the general U.S. population. They are eight times more likely to live in extreme poverty (with less than $10,000 of income) than the general population. They have the highest rate of HIV infection in the country and their average life expectancy of only 35 years.
Clearly, the hard work to equality has only just begun. Their collective courage has yet to be rewarded or even often witnessed. What has become increasingly clear is that the rights of all oppressed and marginalized people – whether by race or sexual identity – have always been inextricably linked. So many of the rights which we take for granted are a direct result of the risks and sacrifices that marginalized people have taken. For them, they had no choice but to fight.
We are one people, and our ideals of freedom are honored only when they become universal. Sharing in this year's Pride Month celebrations is recognizing and celebrating the most precious human right of all: the freedom to live and love as we choose. So, support the movement: attend a parade, wear rainbows, volunteer for a gay rights organization, but most important don't look away from the courage it takes to be oneself.
“Being African American & LGBTQ: An Introduction” Human Rights Campaign
“LGBTQ+ People of Color More Likely to Live In Poverty Than Whites” Colorlines
“New Analysis Shows Startling Levels of Discrimination Against Black Transgender People” National LGBTQ Task Force
“Measuring Multiple Minority Stress: The LGBT People of Color Microaggressions Scale” Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology
“Celebrating Pride Month and rallying for racial equality: LGBTQ groups seek 'to stand in solidarity with the black community'” USA Today