Guest Columnist

Together in Pride: 'Black Lives Matter' means all Black lives

Community members gather on the Pentacrest during a Juneteenth Celebration in Iowa City on  Saturday, June 20, 2020. The
Community members gather on the Pentacrest during a Juneteenth Celebration in Iowa City on Saturday, June 20, 2020. The event capped more than two weeks of protests for racial justice in Iowa City. (Nick Rohlman/freelance)

I was driving to work down Dubuque Street in Iowa City and as I got closer, I saw it — downtown business with their pride flags out on their patios blowing through the wind. With everything going on — from a pandemic to postponing our 50th Anniversary Festival and March to the growing movement of Black Lives Matter — it was a lot to take in.

Never did I think in my first few months as Iowa City Pride’s president would I have to face all this at one time. 2020 certainly took a turn, and it has been incredibly hard for me to process. But one thing persists, and that is being the LGBTQ+ community’s fight.

In Iowa we saw multiple anti-LGBTQ bills be brought up, fought and turned down. It was a reminder of how Pride got started. Pride was a protest. Stonewall was a riot against the police. And it was trans women of color, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera, who led the fight and helped begin the Gay Liberation Movement.

Now fast forward 51 years and the LGBTQ community still is facing injustices, but we continue to fight. As we continue our fight, we also have taken on the fight for our Black and brown siblings. We stand by them and with them, we march with them, we fight with them.

I have been to protests in Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. I have seen my community out there protesting with my Black and brown siblings. I have seen my community rally with Black Lives Matter. It was my community that reminded me who fought for us. While we fight our own injustices, we can still fight with others as well.

Not only are we fighting racial injustice as a nation, but we are also facing those injustices within our own community. Many LGBTQ people of color are seeing injustices within our community and often don’t feel safe or feel that there are enough safe places for them. Many don’t feel comfortable at Pride. As a person of color, I know I wasn’t always comfortable at Pride at first or in many other LGBTQ settings. But that shift is coming, and we are speaking up and we are ready for change. Over the past few weeks I have seen the LGBTQ community “call out” their own and hold those accountable for their actions and beliefs.

Last year alone, deaths of at least 27 transgender or non-gender-conforming were reported, but many more deaths have been misgendered among women of color. So, when someone says Black Lives Matter, they are talking about all Black lives.

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The BLM website states: “We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folk, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. Our network centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.”

Our transgender community is under attack and we must continue the fight for them as well as for ourselves. It’s important to remember where and how we got here with Pride. Earlier this year at the University of Iowa’s “Hit the wall” production, the producers and community members talked about what more we can do.

Now is the time to support this movement because Black Lives Matter affects us all. We must continue to hold ourselves and other accountable, we must continue to educate ourselves and others, we must continue to check in with ourselves, others and people of color.

This is a fight that isn’t going away. The only way we will continue to make change is if we are in this together. “Together in Pride” we will not only continue our fight against our injustices, but others’ injustices as well. For me, I am grateful to everyone in the LGBTQ community for stepping up and taking a stance, together.

Tony Sivanthaphanith is president of Iowa City Pride. He is an Asian-American male and first-generation product of immigrants.

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