Pride Month comes at a difficult and somber time this year. In the middle of global social unrest because of human rights violations, a crackdown on freedom of speech and a worldwide health crisis, the LGBTQ+ community is faced with an opportunity to help out and pour the energy they use to celebrate and party at Pride into creating positive social change.
If you, a queer person, are finding it difficult to see the value of speaking out, fighting and protesting in order to secure human rights, it’s time to look back at Pride’s roots and see for yourself that we owe everything that we have now to the people who dared to stand up against tyranny, discrimination, police brutality and racism.
The Stonewall riots were borne out of years of continuous oppression. When police raided gay bar Stonewall Inn back in 1969, acts like dancing together, cross-dressing and even just holding hands were considered homosexual, and therefore illegal. Pioneers, like Storme Delarverie, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, threw the first punches, bricks and shot glasses at the police who were arresting them and countless others. They didn’t just turn a blind eye to the obvious violation of human rights. Their efforts lead to a jumpstart in LGBTQ+ activism and eventually, to the rights we have now.
In the Philippines, the first Pride celebrations were protests that raised awareness on lesbian visibility, the destigmatization of AIDS and the call to stop harassment against gays and lesbians. In fact, the first recorded Pride March of the Philippines in 1994 coincided with a bigger protest against the Value Added Tax (VAT).
Things are definitely much better for the LGBTQ+ community these days. More countries are passing anti-discrimination and marriage equality laws. People are becoming more open-minded and educated in understanding the gender spectrum. We get to see ourselves represented in mass media. LGBTQ+ families even qualified for financial aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
But we cannot be caught relaxing. Just because our community is now experiencing a considerably better life than before, it doesn’t mean that we can now be silent. Mental disorders and substance abuse continue to be prevalent, with lower rates of treatment or support. Every year, more and more people lack access to quality healthcare, and the coronavirus pandemic is making it worse. People of color continue to be victims of targeted racism and homophobia. Heck, in our own country, we might be tagged as terrorists for simply expressing our opinion.
Pride is an avenue to protest and continue to fight for all these things. The good that we have now doesn’t even compare to what we still have to fight for. Knowing that its origins and our continuous fight for human rights are political, treating Pride as a mere celebration is absurd. Pride was, is, and always will be a protest. More than a celebration, Pride is an intersectional fight—that means it will not stop until everyone is treated equally. The struggle of the LGBTQ+ coexists and informs the struggle of other oppressed communities.
You cannot excuse yourself from movements like #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo but actively participate in Pride, or vice versa. You cannot stand for women’s rights without recognizing trans women; you cannot protest the silencing of freedom of speech when you don’t believe in nonbinary gender expression; you can’t “eat the rich” but support brands profiting off rainbow capitalism.
June is Pride Month, but let’s not focus on the celebrations, especially with worldwide social unrest. We shouldn’t just be proud, we have to be angry, courageous and determined because all over the globe, human rights—and LGBTQ+ rights—are under threat. History shows that the only way we can rise is to fight back.