Another world seems to be not only possible, but imminent. Millions of people marched across the United States in 2020 – expressing outrage against the abuses of power and police violence that people of color and the marginalized have faced for centuries. It may surprise some of us to learn that the most recent fight for racial equality, advocated for by Black Lives Matter movement, has long been shared by an equally difficult fight for sexual equality.
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 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.
And yet there remains a remarkable danger for many trans women to this day: they remain the most vulnerable to violence and exploitation in our society, with an average life expectancy of only 35 years.
It is hard to imagine how much courage it takes to live at the intersection of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Yet, we know that 39% of the LGBTQ community identifies as a person of color. Their collective courage has yet to be rewarded or even often witnessed. This group experiences even more economic disadvantages because of the persistent discrimination, housing and job insecurity, and lack quality health care, and they have fewer educational opportunities.
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 also have the highest rate of HIV infection in the country.
Clearly, the hard work to equality has only just begun.
We may feel we are supporting the movement by wearing a rainbow or picnicking at a Pride parade, but the truth is that 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.
What has become clear in recent days is that the rights of all oppressed and marginalized people – whether by race or sexual identity – have always been inextricably linked. 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.
“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