Let me be perfectly queer, Gay Pride would not exist without Black activism. By what feels like sheer impossibility, we have arrived in June, the month of the gays. Rainbow flags line streets and storefronts. Corporations inundate our inboxes with merch featuring pat phrases like “Love is Love,” to show how equitable they are. Straight allies fly our colors proudly on their social media timelines. This year, parties and parades are cancelled for the sake of public health. The rainbows are now in grayscale, dulled by the heaviness of the world. To some it feels as if nothing is normal about Gay Pride Month this year. Others who have a greater grasp on history, know better. The violent police murder of George Floyd, Tony McDade a black trans man, and Breonna Taylor murdered in her bed, have finally captured the attention and rage of White America longer than a perfomative social media memorial. People have taken to the streets despite the pressing threat of exposure to COVID-19 because they know that police brutality is an even more deadly virus for people of color. Protests have ended in rubber bullets, tear gas and displays of violence by the police nationwide. Horrific snippets of footage sweep the internet: Flash bangs launched onto innocent peoples’ porches by riot squads, 12 year olds with tear gas in their eyes and reporters of color being arrested. My Twitter feed is consumed with videos of carnage, where normally June would bring technicolored outfits and body glitter.
These protests are long overdue for the injustice that Black people and people of color have suffered in the United States at the hands of the police and other oppressive forces. The intersectionality of this moment is clear. I can be the proud loud-mouthed dyke that I am because of Black queer actvists. My safety as a queer person in this world is in direct thanks to the work of Black drag queen, Marsha P. Johnson who is attributed to throwing the first brick at the iconic Stonewall Inn bar in 1969, and Stormé DeLarverie, a Black butch lesbian who that night was beaten by police officers and fought back. The riots at the Stonewall Inn ignited the gay liberation movement, and is celebrated as the first gay pride.
These riots were not about parades, marriage or equal rights, they were about police. Ingited by queer Black people who refused to let their bodies be brutalized any longer by people that were supposed to protect them. There is much talk on the Internet about centering Black queer vocies this Pride, but the reality is that they have always been at the center. White people are just now more aware that their privilege has been silencing those voices. Pride was born on the backs of Black people, like so much in this country. Unequivocally, Pride has always been a form of resistance and gay power cannot exist without Black power.
Pride celebrations may be cancelled, but pride as a concept has never had more meaning.The heart of Pride is about honoring people who were brave enough to stand up for what is right. Pride is marching in the streets screaming, “I am not expendable,” or this year, “No justice. No peace. No racist police.” If you are out and proud and you don’t support the acts of resistance happening all across this country, you are committing an act of violence against the people that fought for you. If you are an ally who attends our parties and ordinarily would occupy queer spaces and you are silent right now, you are no ally. If the scene unfolding across our country makes you uncomfortable, sit with that, don’t look away. Your discomfort is a fraction of what Black people feel everyday, in a country that views them as expendable. We all need to rise and resist like our lives depend on it, because for Black folx in America, it does.
Marti Payseur (she/her/hers) is the co-owner of Thistle’s Summit Bed & Breakfast located in Mount Vernon, Iowa. It is affectionately called “Iowa’s Queerest B&B.” She is a community activist, organizing around LGBTQ and feminist issues and is a regular contributor to The Gazette.