Learning From History.

Over the past few weeks, people have been comparing current events and politics to ones from history. The collection of rosaries from immigrants crossing the US/Mexico border has reminded people of the collection of wedding rings from Jewish folks in concentration camps. People have reminded folks that both the Holocaust and slavery were legal and that legality isn’t always equal to morality, as bad policies have been in place for quite some time.

In the first episode of the NPR/WABE podcast ‘Buried Truths’, host Hank Klibanoff talks about the importance of the show by saying that “… when we understand who we were, we can better understand who we are.” Learning about history and who we were can bring new meaning and context to current issues. And by looking at history and the full context, we can also better understand how these issues work, the ways in which we can combat injustice and inequality, and find role models.

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The History of Pride.

For many people, Pride month is coming to an end but there’s one important anniversary to celebrate and remember today: the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots. So often, many people forget the history of Pride and the long history of LGBTQ activism and existence. We’ve been around for centuries but homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia have made it difficult for LGBTQ folks throughout history to exist happily and openly.

While the Stonewall Inn Riots are one of the most famous LGBTQ events in US history, police raids on gay bars were common during the 1950s and 1960s throughout the United States. And they didn’t stop after the Stonewall Riots. People were frequently arrested for different reasons, including for not wearing three articles of gender appropriate clothing. Those who frequented the Stonewall during this time also dealt with police harassment outside the bar and many were ostracized from their families and communities if or when they came out.

In the 1950s, gay people were also barred from government jobs with the notion that they could be blackmailed about their sexuality into sharing secrets. This is often called the ‘Lavender Scare’ and in addition to hundreds of people being harassed about their personal lives and sexuality, many lost their jobs because of it.

Additionally, many people during this time also thought that being gay or bisexual was an illness and something that could be cured. Gay, bisexual, and trans folks were regularly (and wrongly) seen as ‘perverted’ and wrong. There were many people during the 20th century who would live in the closet in their professional lives and places like the Stonewall provided a safe space. And like today, there were also many LGBTQ folks who dealt with poverty and homelessness during that time. For many, the Stonewall was a community center as much as a bar, as it was a warm place for LGBTQ folks to openly congregate and be with friends.

All of this is to put things into context, as people had some very good reasons to protest and riot. To deal with losing your job, family, and friends because of your gender identity or sexual orientation and to constantly hear that these things are also an ‘illness’ that needs to be cured is tough. It’s frustrating, degrading, and angering to be incorrectly labeled as a risk and wrong because of how you express yourself and who you love.

So on June 28th, 1969, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn again, people fought back for days instead of dispersing like they had done before. People at the Stonewall were fed up with how the police and rest of society were treating them. This event is often credited as the beginning of the gay rights movement and like Miss Major Griffin Gracy said, it was an empowering moment for many folks. It wasn’t the first moment that LGBTQ folks stood up and fought back but it was a moment that helped push the US towards justice and equality for the LGBTQ community.

One year after the riots, the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day took place. This event was a remembrance for what had happened that June in 1969 and was also a continued fight for legal rights and social acceptance. It began with a march with a few hundred people gathering at the outside of the Stonewall Inn and by the time that it ended in Central Park in 1970, there were a few thousand people! By 1973, the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day was an expected event in New York City and there were other cities holding similar events.

In the decades since the Stonewall Inn Riots and first Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, Pride has grown and evolved. There are numerous events all over the country and all over the world during June and the first couple weeks of July. Many corporations, police departments, and governments now slap a rainbow on products, vans, and more each June. Parties of all kinds happen throughout the month and people of different identities often join the celebrations.

While we’ve come a long way over the last 49 years, we also have a long way to go for a more just and equitable society. Pride shouldn’t just a celebration nowadays; it should also be a protest. These two things can, and should, go hand in hand. Celebrating our community and feeling joy in our existence is often an act of resistance and we should keep celebrating. But using this time and space to also work towards a better world is in the spirit of Pride and honors those who came before us.

Trans Day of Action (#TDOA)

Today (June 22nd, 2018) is the 14th annual Trans Day of Action, a day organized by TransJustice, a political subgroup of The Audre Lorde Project in New York City, to demand safe access in public and private spaces for trans and gender nonconforming folks and to honor all the victories made in the trans movement over the last year. The NYC event is happening today, 4pm-7pm at Christopher Street Pier (Pier 45 on Manhattan’s West Side).

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Things to do.

Things are hectic and overwhelming now on so many different levels – trying to just keep up with what’s coming out of the White House and from 45’s administration on a regular basis is difficult most days. Add in everything else, including trying to survive, just getting out of bed most days can be hard. But it’s so important that we, especially and particularly we as white people, do get out of bed and work against white supremacy and fight for justice and equity.

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Understanding this weekend.

Over the weekend, I was glued to the screen to my phone, watching the events violently unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia and trying to understand both what’s happening in real time and the context for it all. It’s difficult for so many reasons to really keep up and understand what’s been going on but here’s a brief timeline of what happened on Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville.

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Pride.

With Pride month officially done, I can’t help but think about where Pride has been, where it is now, and where it’s going. There’s no formal date for Pride but many cities typically celebrate during the last few weekends of June to (mostly) coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots on June 28th. There always seems to be some sort of Pride event in the world during the weekends leading up to July and a few that happen during the first couple weekends of the month as well.

I always feel like a bad queer person because of this but I’ve actually only been to Pride weekend once. It was years ago and even then, I only stayed during the day and I was volunteering the entire time. I think that Pride can be this amazing celebration of the LGBTQ+ community but as an introverted person with anxiety and depression, being in large crowds for any reason and any amount of time is stressful and overwhelming.

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Actions.

There is so much going on in the world today, especially with all that the current administration and Congress is pushing through. In the midst of all this chaos, it can be easily to get overwhelmed  – I know I have been. But it’s important to keep fighting, to keep resisting, and to take care of yourself. Self-care and taking a deep breath is just as important as being on the streets and making calls.

With all the issues going on, there are plenty of ways to resist and not everyone’s activism is going to look the same. People have different abilities, resources, and schedules, which means that not everyone can march in protests but there are so many things that need to happen. With this, I thought I’d find some great and different ways to join the fight.

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Not Normal.

With Trump officially in office and already starting his term off to a bang, it’s important to reiterate that all of this is not normal. The censoring of government employees and scientists? Not normal. The Press Secretary blatantly lying about the size of the inauguration crowds, despite the fact that there is clear photographic evidence to contradict him? Still not normal, no matter if ‘alternative facts’ actually exist. The Press Secretary has even started to print out tweets that Trump has issues with and holds them up at press briefings, which is incredibly bizarre and definitely not normal. Trump and those in his administration have proven several times in less than two weeks that they are willing to lie to the American public on numerous issues.

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Last Saturday.

The Women’s March on Washington and related sister marches around the world happened this past weekend and honestly, I have some mixed feelings about it all. On one hand, it was incredibly amazing to see all the crowds that showed up in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, and more. Hell, there was even a (tiny) protest in Antarctica! And I’m not going to lie: seeing the dramatic contrast between the inauguration on Friday and the march in DC on Saturday was spectacular.

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