The Merriam Webster Dictionary states that to emancipate means, “to free from restraint, control, or the power of another”. This reflects the Gay Rights Movement’s motive for Pride, a yearly parade that celebrates and recognizes queer culture and community to help the LGBT community reach a state of total emancipation, literally and figuratively. Without a briefing of queer history and a recapitulation of modern-day failures and successes of the LGBT movement, it’s difficult for adversaries to understand that there’s still a civil-rights gap that needs to be wedged. One might ask, “How much emancipation does the LGBT community need?”
But adversaries hardly acknowledge the fact that states can still legally discriminate against gay, lesbian, and transgender people in employment, housing, and health care, all rudimentary needs to ensure one’s survival. Adversaries recognize queer emancipation as an ability that gay people have in expressing homosexual identity in appearance and language. The proven reality is that a queer-identifying person’s “ability” to kiss their same-sex partner in public doesn’t subvert certain states from oppressing them.
To better understand and advance the freedoms of queer people, advocates must resist the history and progress that flourished from the Gay Rights Movement in 1969. One can commemorate the queer pioneers who revolted throughout the U.S., and then more specifically in New York City, who sparked the Stonewall Riots and embarked a journey toward social justice. One can thank these pioneers for their bravery, as the Stonewall Riots set precedent for future movements and established the homosexual counterculture.
We must also credit the gay, trans and non-gender conforming people, who from the underground ballroom enclaves, the LGBT subculture, disintegrated heteronormativity and promoted intersectionality, highlighting the disadvantaged and underrepresented queer. Most prominent in Harlem in the 1980s, the underground ball scene provided a safe space for queer black and Latinx folk to celebrate their rawness and unconventional sexual and gender identity, which was still relatively unpopular in the 70s and 80s. The underground ballroom scene epitomized drag queen gusto and consisted of fresh voguing, serving as a hub for queer initiatives and celebrations. Like the first suburbs for white migrants, the ball community became the land of enchantment for queer people of color.
Homosexual people are still attacked by the ever-growing movement of conservatives and evangelicals, still subject to discrimination in housing and employment, still rejected from specific public accommodations—retail stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices and banks. Some are even subject to discrimination in state employment. According to the Movement Advancement Project, a whopping 50 percent of LGBT citizenry reside in states that withhold significant laws that could prohibit housing discrimination based on ones sexual orientation or gender identity. The percentage is the same for employment discrimination. This means that 50 percent of the LGBT populace is at risk of being stripped of its most basic, intrinsic human rights, the rights deemed unalienable by the Declaration of Independence. Discrimination in state employment is estimated at 27 percent.
In addition to this, “51 [percent]of LGBT population lives in states that do not prohibit public accommodations discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” There is much quarrel over this issue: should private business owners be permitted to deny public service to a gay, lesbian or transgender person, and is it morally permissible when the argument is that that doing so goes against their faith? Some will say, yes, it should be permissible, arguing that lesbian, gay, and transgender persons can seek service from secular accommodations. This is almost comparable to the Civil Rights era’s Jim Crow laws. The state loopholes and religious discrimination exemptions must be dismantled. People must shift their interactions with abstract people in order to conceptualize the mental distress that the queer community experiences when their human existence is institutionally denied and rejected.
These are not small nuances. These are roadblocks that derail society’s social progress. It’s why civil rights advocates preach the importance of intersectionality, as housing and employment discrimination continue to be prevalent among African-Americans, not to mention the varying degrees of institutional racism committed against marginalized people. These aspects of the black experience are shared with the LGBT community, especially trans POC, more specifically— black transgender women. Transgender women of color are disproportionately targets of deadly force, often verbally or physically targeted by homophobic, transphobic people and state officials. It’s the sequential combination “of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia” that exclude trans women of color from “employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable”. They’re degraded, shunned, stereotyped and labeled as sexual deviants. And this is all too similar to the vulnerabilities that the stigmatized black man faces today. That is why the process toward social equality is a cumbersome one.
So the next time adversaries ask, What’s with the big queer celebration, and why is it necessary? Tell them that it’s necessary because the federal government still permits state governments to discriminate against LGBT people. Tell them that LGBT emancipation isn’t a sealed deal. Tell them that it’s not just a celebration but also a commemoration of those lives lost. Tell them that it’s to honor the brave gay, lesbian, and transgender activists. Tell them that it’s a memorial for the ostracized youths, the very youths who went and took their own lives. Tell them that it’s also in memory of murdered trans people, fallen victims of hate crimes. Tell them that it’s for the 6-year-old boy who, since birth, never felt that the body he inhabited was his body. Tell them that it’s for those individuals who struggle to openly accept themselves but try, everyday, to acknowledge and find comfort in their oblique beauty. It’s a celebration of queer people in every form, fashion, color, shape, and size.
It’s an act of political resistance to confront the patriarchy and authoritative conservative regime that aims to dismantle social progress, revive an old-fashioned, immobile ideology and reintegrate it into the very foundation of this society. It’s to celebrate and dance so that our pain might morph into emancipating joy, even if that joy is to last only for a day. It’s to remain courageous and optimistic. It’s to meet like-minded folk, to seal new oaths, to compliment queers, to organize and to kickass. It’s, in fact, a sublime aspect of this forthcoming revolution.
Here’s to solidarity.
Happy Pride, beautiful queers.
A Fellow Queer