In Honor of Pride, Let’s Put Our Privilege to Work For Black Lives Matter
All too recently we were unheard, dying en masse while the world turned a blind eye. If we don't fight to end racial injustice, we have nothing to be proud of.
As an openly gay writer, I look forward to Pride all year long. After 11 months of mild pushback, sanitizing, and wrapping my thoughts neatly in a bow, it's the one time of year I can write openly to issues we — the queer community — face all year long. June is a one-month grace period.
Those who usually don't have time for us, suddenly do — or it's fashionable to feign enthusiasm. I care very little for the lip service, or New York City's famous box-brand parade, as long as we all end up together. Pride is still a breath of fresh air.
But frankly, it's a breath of fresh air I don't need, as a white person, when George Floyd can't breathe to begin with; when Breonna Taylor was shot to death in her own home on a “no-knock” warrant in Louisville; when Tony McDade was gunned down by Tallahassee police less than two weeks ago. Or, when David McAtee was shot dead by Louisville police last week, his body left on the street for 12 hours.
Because if we don't stand with Black people in the face of racial injustice, we have nothing to be proud of. If we would rather align ourselves with white respectability than lean into intersectional support of Black folks, we need a reality check more than we do a parade. White queers preach inclusivity, but it’s time to make it our practice. Simply put, we do not deserve the advocacy of women whose lives we would not defend today: like Nina Pop, a 28-year-old Black trans woman stabbed to death one month ago.
Gay liberation was born out of defiance. Stonewall was a riot, after all, and our rights were hard-won by Black trans women who the NYPD abused regularly in 1969. History was made by Marsha P. Johnson, a Black, HIV-positive, trans woman sex worker. On June 2, we honored her in a rally at Stonewall on International Sex Workers' Day: a testimony to the power of protest to exact change against the tyranny of police brutality. Marsha didn't live to see the scope of her life's work: She was murdered on July 6, 1992 at the age of 46.
She did not die in vain. We owe her so much today. But white queer people take her death in vain every time we allow ourselves to be so cushioned by privilege we think riots are beneath us. I can assure you they are not.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "Riots are the language of the unheard." It would do us white queers well to remember that some 40 years ago, we knew rage too. We were unheard, dying en masse while the world turned a blind eye. I wasn't alive then, but I know what those demons look like because I live with them today.
Queer people know loss, and we know how the loss of elders hurts communities. We can put a face to "silence equals death" in the 100,000-plus lives lost to AIDS in the US by January 25, 1991 — a footnote on page 18 of The New York Times. We lost playwright and activist Larry Kramer this year, though his message of seizing that grief and anger and making work out of it should not be lost on us in this moment.
I'm asking you today to dedicate this month to demanding restorative justice for Black lives lost needlessly at the hands of police brutality. Racism, too, is a virus, and the language of viruses isn't novel to us at all. We know better. As white queers, we can and must do better by Black people.
That means amplifying Black voices and joining them to speak truth to power for Black Lives Matter. There is no Pride in a police state. Let's put our privilege to work on dismantling itself.