Two years ago today, a homophobe murdered 49 people and injured 53 others in Orlando.
Today, I take this moment to remember those murdered and injured in the Pulse nightclub attack. I also reflect on the 32 killed in New Orleans at the Upstairs Lounge in 1973.
Other deaths—like those of Harvey Milk, Brandon Teena, and Matthew Shepard—are also on my mind. As well as the many, many assaults and murders that I haven’t heard about. Mostly because the victims are transgender and people of color. Or because they became ill during a time when our president refused to acknowledge their community’s existence.
Too many LGBTQ people have been threatened, assaulted, and murdered simply for the act of existing. It’s enough to make me weep in despair. And rage with a fierce desire for revenge. But neither impulse honors their memory like fighting to end the violence can.
Each year during the month of June, some wiseass has to post a social media meme asking, “Where’s my straight pride parade?”
Be thankful you don’t need one. Be thankful that the simple act of claiming your right to exist doesn’t carry any risk. Be grateful that you can claim space in this world without fear.
Every time an LGBTQ person claims that identity, they risk being rejected, ignored, assaulted, or killed. Thousands of us have been. More will be. Just for saying we aren’t straight.
This month, I ask my straight family and friends to reflect on that. Many of you are excellent allies, and I thank you for standing with us. But this month, please take a moment and really reflect on what it means to be an ally.
You might start with considering what a gift you’ve been given. When someone you know comes out to you, they’re saying, “I think you’re someone I can trust with my truth. Please be worthy of that trust.”
Coming out is a huge step. And it’s a never-ending process for every LGBTQ person. Every new neighbor, every job change, every new school year means trying to determine who I can trust and who I can’t.
Pride Month’s roots are in the Stonewall Inn riots of 1969. A Mob-owned bar was the site of another round of police violence against the gay and lesbian community, and a group of drag queens and transgender women decided to fight back.
Yes, Pride has become a huge party in many places because we have made progress. But progress can be halted. Regression is always possible. And Pride Month should always be a time to celebrate what we’ve gained but also a time to fight for those who are still in need.
Happy Pride, dear ones. May our lights shine brightly this month and always. And may we never forget those we’ve lost along the way.