Pride 2020 Belongs to the Black Lives Matter Movement
My name is Paige Schoppmann. This article is beginning a little differently today, because the world is different. Stay with me. I am a queer bisexual white woman who lives in New Hampshire and grew up in Vermont. I’m a survivor of sexual assault, an activist, an inclusive feminist, and this is my letter to the LGBTQ+ community in the trenches of the most important movement of the 21st century. This is my love letter to activism.
As mentioned, I grew up in Vermont, and now live in New Hampshire. It’s not uncommonly known that those are not exactly the most diverse places in America. Consequently, there’s a lot about slavery that I did not and still do not know. I’m ashamed to say that now, at 22, I am finally learning about systemic racism in our police forces and incarceration tactics that I have never known. (That’s not to mention the lack of awareness that I have in regard to how racism affects every governmentally systemic branch of our country like housing, employment, and education, just to name a few). I am a part of multitudes of systems in place by the government that have been created specifically for me as a white, passing woman. I have never had the color of my skin be a basis for discrimination.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community though, I do have an awareness of police brutality that many others in our country were never taught or understand.
We, the LGBTQ+ community, know police brutality. It is in our bones.
We know that the first Pride was a riot. A protest. A fight against police brutality that was started by a trans black woman, Marsha P. Johnson.
Pride has grown to include celebration and beauty, but the somber knowledge of how it began – and how far we still have to go – is present and holds weight in every LGBTQ+ person.
We all have a moral obligation to stand alongside our people in this fight.
Some of you reading this may be white, straight, cis men who have been handed the silver platter of privilege and are just trying to be a good ally.
Some of you may be black trans women who have been in this fight since before you were even born, and you’ve had to learn how to not be killed by the very systems that were put in place to protect you.
Some of you may be somewhere in between, experiencing privilege firsthand while also experiencing the lack of privilege frequently in your life.
Regardless of where you are in your education and knowledge of the BLM movement, the world is calling on you to find a way to make yourself useful. Countless precious, important, beautiful Black American lives have been lost to blatant and violent murders with no justice or peace to prevail. It is well past time to fight, stand together, and demand basic equality for each other and ourselves.
For me the fight is new. For others, they never got the privilege to not be fighting for their lives.
It is our duty, as a community, to get enraged, to educate ourselves, and to not stop fighting for anything until every life on earth has peace. Pride has not been cancelled; we just are being called upon this moment. This is Pride. It is our duty. The world is calling on us.
How will you answer?
As Pride month begins this year around, it has become extra important for us to take a deep, long look at our history and remember our roots as a community frequently fighting for our rights. The world is aching for change, and Black lives have been at the expense of that for far too long. For so long, Black people have been relentlessly killed just on the basis of the color of their skin, and it is so systemic it is within our society that the argument for basic survival of Black people is a controversial one. The LGBTQ+ community knows and can empathize with discrimination and police brutality. So, as Pride month begins and the Black Lives Matter movement is surging, we must join the fight to actively work against racism while pushing and understanding the importance of anti-racism alongside the fight for basic human rights. In the fight for civil rights in the 21st century, we must support and uplift this movement. There is no other option.
We all have a general idea of what Pride is like and where it originated from; but as the world calls for more activism and revolution than the past decade, we need to remember and honor our history.
As a refresher, on June 28, 1969, eight police officers in New York City raided a gay bar to attempt arrest and/or hospitalization of the gay patrons inside. Of course, at Stonewall in particular, the patrons fought back, when Marsha P. Johnson threw a shot glass at a mirror, demanding her civil rights. We would of course later come to know Marsha P. Johnson as the Black trans woman who pioneered the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The shot glass that she threw came to be known as the “shot glass that was heard around the world,” as thousands of people returned to Stonewall six nights in a row to protest for their rights. This became known as the first Pride (Thompson).
Pride started as a riot.
Pride later became more than just a riot when on June 28, 1970 the world began celebrating and honoring the anniversary of Stonewall. This was the origination of the Gay Freedom Marches, demanding equal rights while also celebrating LGBTQ+ lives and rights. As we see the times change the meaning of Pride however, it is now turning into being a mix of a political event demanding and educating for rights, a celebration of who we are and the lives we lead, a celebration of how far we’ve come, and a time to honor the pioneers of the LGBTQ+ movement. While our community grows to accept all of these reasons to participate in Pride, it has always been a concern in – and out of – the LGBTQ+ community how far we should derive from the original meaning of Pride.
For many years the LGBTQ+ community has had the privilege of being able to let Pride be more celebration and less riot on a mainstream, mass level.
This year is different.
This year, we must return the favor of protest, change, solidarity, grief and anger to join the fight with the Black Lives Matter movement.
This year, the LGBTQ+ community has a responsibility to fight against the brutal murder of Black people on a massive scale, and we must also come to know that these blatantly violent killings are not only supported, but are encouraged by some of the most powerful voices in America.
We are no strangers to police brutality. We have come a long way since the police brutality we experienced as a community in the 1970s, but there is still deep discrimination and loss of authority between the members of the LGBTQ+ community and police forces, on a broad scale. Much of the LGBTQ+ community still has a deep sense of distrust in law enforcements, and mistreatment by police officers to LGBTQ+ citizens is not at all unheard of. In 2015, 58% of transgender respondents in a survey reported mistreatment by police forces. We lose our own community to police brutality time and time again, and that isn’t even a sliver of what BIPOC – specifically Black – Americans face every single day (Pride Legal).
As with all discrimination, it is substantially worse for individuals who are at the epicenter of minorities. African and Black Americans in the LGBTQ+ community today experience police brutality on such a large scale. “Black people, LGBTQ people, and especially all LGBTQ people of color are at a greater risk for violence every day in this country. This must end,” says Tori Cooper, the Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative at the Human Rights Campaign (Deliso). So, while we must stand together, we must also see the inherent effect that systemic racism has with our own community in accordance to homophobia and/or transphobia.
One of the most recent cases of this venn-diagram of racism and homophobia is Tony McDade’s murder. As a 38-year-old transgender Black man, he was fatally shot by a police officer in Tallahassee on May 27, 2020 – just 5 days after George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. This was the third fatal officer-involved shooting in Tallahassee in 2 months, and McDade is believed to be at least the twelfth violent death of a transgender or nonbinary person so far in the United States of this year (Deliso). The officer’s identity is private, in accordance to a Floridian law that “classifies police officers involved in shootings as victims and thus guarantees their anonymity.” As the Tallahassee Police Department claims, “the suspect was in possession of a handgun, and a bloody knife was found at the scene,” but a resident of McDade’s apartment complex says otherwise. Clifford Butler claims that he saw the white officer “jump out of the car, swing the door open, and just start shooting,” never hearing any introductions or identification from the police (Dixon).
An investigation into the shooting has been called by the National Black Justice Coalition, and the officer is on administrative leave during the investigation. This is just one more story of how a Black life in the United States was cut short by the hands of a police officer, and it is not even the tip of the iceberg for what we’re up against (Dixon).
So, as we all open the news to the latest photo, obituary, and video footage of another Black person losing life at the hands of another white police officer, we must fight together within communities. There are so many reasons why we need to all stand together as communities, but one of the most important things to remember is that there is no Pride without Black voices and activism.
If you are an LGBTQ+ person who is not a person of color, you must stand strongly with the Black Lives Matter movement. There is no celebration of Pride and the history of Stonewall if there is not support of the protests happening in our backyard right now. A fight for human rights is a fight for human rights, and you don’t get to pick and choose the type of people that you’ll stand up for. People are dying. The time is yesterday.
There is an unimaginative amount of ways that anybody can support the Black Lives Matter movement, and if protests aren’t your thing that’s still okay. Below is a list of resources and petitions from Black activists working day in and day out for justice. Educate yourself from Black activists, remain engaged with as much of the news as you’re able, and actively create space to fight as much as you can. This fight is going to be long, and we have to keep going. If protesting isn’t the way you’ll provide support best, then get involved another way.
As a passionate activist, political junkie, writer, and self-proclaimed badass feminist, I have always been the type of person to be on the frontlines. I would – and have – stand in the protest and barricade police officers from Black peaceful protestors. This year though, there’s a threat of a global pandemic, and I am no longer physically able to protest. After begging my doctors to give me permission, I finally had to find other ways I could be useful. I realized that they weren’t budging, and people are still dying. I had to do more. Protests and riots are not the only way to get involved, but the world cannot afford for anyone to take a backseat. The LGBTQ+ community, as well as every person with a moral compass, must be a part of this fight.
As mentioned, below is a list of resources. While we dive into one of the most important moments in history, remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint. This movement needs everyone to be engaged and to be as safe in their activism as they can be. When in doubt, someone who can help may be a direct message away.
Stay safe, stay angry, and protect each other.
This is Pride.
Good luck out there, and let’s go change the world.
Link to resources (which will be updated daily): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cDTQ-ICnEHhS-B26XiBk1tJRjlPdyKns2BbbML6pCHI/edit?usp=sharing