The Merriam Webster Dictionary states that to emancipate means, “to free from restraint, control, or the power of another“. I thought to myself that there’s no better way to describe the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement’s motive for Pride, a yearly parade that celebrates and recognizes queer culture and community, which is to help the LGBT community reach a state of total emancipation, both 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 our adversaries to understand that there’s still a civil rights gap that needs to be wedged. One asks, “How much emancipation does the LGBT community need?”
And that is when we collectively respond with, “Dear adversaries, the fact that same-sex couples can marry and can be seen holding hands and/or kissing in public doesn’t subvert state power, like the fact that states can still legally discriminate against LGBT people.”
To be fair, we can take note of the gradual progress that flourished from the Gay Rights Movement in 1969. We 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 launched an odyssey toward social justice. We can thank these pioneers for their bravery, as the Stonewall Riots set precedent for future gay rights movements and helped establish a gay 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 blacks and Latins to celebrate their rawness and abstract individuality, and this was still very taboo in the 70s and 80s. The underground ballroom scene epitomized drag queen gusto and consisted of fresh voguing. It served as the hub of queer animation. Like the first suburbs for white migrants, ball communities were like lands of enchantment and elegance for queer people of color.
But now It’s 2018, and LGBT people are still attacked by the ever-growing movement of conservative extremists and radicals, 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 resides in states that don’t have significant laws prohibiting 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. This number might seem small, but it’s not so when this type of discrimination infiltrates the majority of states along the U.S. Southern border.
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 if they argue that doing such goes against their faith? Some will say, yes, it should be permissible, arguing that LGBT persons can seek service from secular accommodations. But I must argue against this, because this is much like segregation. The state loopholes and religious discrimination exemptions must be dismantled. Not only is it illegal, but it’s humiliating, and the persons affected are being stripped of their dignity. We must truly shift our own experiences to imagine the mental distress that transpires when gay, lesbian or transgender people are rejected by bureaucratic establishments. This says that, essentially, queer people are socially intolerable. This notion is the same when same-sex couples want to be foster parents but are excluded from selection because of same-sex wedlock.
These are not small nuances. These are roadblocks that derail the social progress of this society. This is why civil rights advocates preach the importance of intersectionality, as housing and employment discrimination are intensely prevalent among the African-American populace, not to mention the varying degrees of institutional racism. 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 harassed by day-to-day homophobic, transphobic people and even 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 society’s ultimate degenerate. 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, one that might result in bloodshed, because it includes a broad category of oppressed people. However, despite the sociopolitical backlash and state oppression, the intersectional movement of fed-up folks fuels the LGBT uprising.
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 only a celebration but also a commemoration of those lives lost. Tell them that it’s to honor the brave LGBT people, and let’s not forget the forgotten LGBT POC who are so underrepresented in mainstream society. Tell them that it’s a memorial for those youths we have abandoned, the very youths who then went and took their own lives. Tell them that it’s also in memory of those trans and murdered, those 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 a big “Fuck you” to the patriarchy and to the 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