June is Pride Month, commemorating the violent police raid on the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, when GLBTQ activists fought abusive police officers who beat gay men, lesbians and those who cross-dressed. So-called law enforcement also participated in blackmail and extortion against those who were closeted.
It took 50 years, until June 2019, for the New York City police commissioner to apologize for the raid. While the GLBTQIA community has increased visibility and acceptance, there is also the putrid and hateful resistance to the very existence of this community.
In a tiny Texas town, a bakery that offered Rainbow cookies in honor of Pride Month faced a detestable backlash when a patron who ordered five dozen cookies — a sizable order for a small, family-run bakery — canceled their order (having not paid for it) because they felt that a Facebook recognition of Pride month was “gay propaganda.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/06/09/pride-month-rainbow-bakery-customer/).
In Jacksonville, Florida, a planned bridge lighting in honor of Pride Month was threatened, some say over intergovernmental jurisdictional issues, while others say it was simple homophobia. In a D.C. suburb, a teacher says he violates his religion to refer to young people by their preferred pronouns. He was fired, and he sues saying that it violates his faith for him to be courteous and compassionate to others. The court agrees with him, and he is headed back to the classroom, intolerant as ever.
These are incidents that have bubbled into the national consciousness, but there are others that go unreported. The bottom line is that hate — racism, homophobia and more — thrives in our nation, and few are prepared to stop it.
Police violence is at the root of Pride Month, just as it is at the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Movement for Black Lives has been firmly and fiercely supportive of GLBTQIA rights, especially sensitive to the rights of trans people, focusing on the trans women who are exponentially more likely to be murdered than others. But with police violence as the common root of two vital movements, why is there so little visible collaboration between those communities? Gay pride is Black pride, too. Let’s call the roll of Black GBLTQIA leaders and thinkers —Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, so many others. And let’s look at hate and hate crime from an intersectional perspective and solutions from that same place.
Pride Month has to be about Black Pride, too, about embracing all LGBTQIA identities. After all, as we experience major demographic shifts, the population, and the electorate, are increasingly diverse. We need to see the intersectional in our commemorations, celebration, and more. And we need to be vocal about our opposition to hate and hateful behavior no matter how it is directed. For example, in an ideal world, the NAACP would have bought some Juneteenth cookies (and maybe they still will) from the Confections bakery in Lufkin, Texas.
Our task is not to respond to each hateful incident but to build a movement that rejects hate. And our mission is to do it “at a time such as this” when the haters empower many who are fearful of inevitable change. Now is a time for a mass movement against racism, homophobia, sexism and hate. It begins when we know our histories and share them. It starts when we acknowledge that Gay Pride Month is about Black pride, too, that women’s history is not white women’s history, Native American history is not a footnote, and hatred is contemptuous.
The carte blanche that so-called “officers of the law” have to terrorize communities they don’t like is especially contemptuous. The same way they bullied gay folks in the 1950s and ’60s is the same way they terrorize Black communities today. Building on Stonewall’s history, the GLBTQIA communities should be some of the most vital voices supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Dr. Dorothy Irene Height was fond of speaking of collective strength. She would say, if I tap you with my finger, you may never feel it, but if my fingers turn into a fist and I tap you then, you’ll feel it. If Black folks and LGBTQIA folks join with others, perhaps we can stop the hate. The folks who patronized Celebrations Bakery in the face of hate put a firewall between ugly and love. They are the fist Dr. Height referenced. Are we part of the fist?
Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and author.