We cannot talk about Pride Month without talking about its foundations in the Stonewall Riots. This series of uprisings, led by transgender women of color, against police raids on the Stonewall Inn that began in June of 1969, are widely considered to be the spark for the modern LGBTQIA+ movement in the US. At the time, “homosexual activity” was widely deemed illegal and these violent raids on gay bars and clubs were a common form of institutional terrorism.
The sustained and forceful resistance at Stonewall turned a tide to where, fast forward to 2022, it’s genuinely stunning to see a corporation without rainbow themed marketing in June. Police departments are increasingly jumping at the opportunity to participate in Pride parades. Trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who played a pivotal role in Stonewall, but were then erased from the narrative for years, now have statues in New York.
Many understandably have questions about the contradictions of this moment. Beyond symbolism and statements, what is the reality for LGBTQIA+ people of color? Whose vision of Pride is really being projected?
These discussions require an intersectional lens. Intersectionality, a term coined by scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberle Crenshaw, refers to the multiple oppressions people face based on their various identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, etc.
When we view Pride in 2022 through an intersectional lens, the gaps between the corporate presentation and the realities faced by those most marginalized become much clearer. Perhaps most notably, the country is in the midst of various vicious political attacks on trans identity, ranging from bills banning, among other things, teaching about trans history and identity, trans participation in school sports, gender inclusive bathrooms and vital healthcare for trans youth in particular. Meanwhile, the epidemic of murders against trans people, particularly Black and Brown trans people, continues.
In the midst of this, people have the right to demand more from powerful and influential institutions than just statements and rainbow aesthetics. The first Pride parades took place in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in June one year after the Stonewall Riots in honor of the uprisings. Numerous gay rights organizations formed throughout the US and the world as a result in the following years. When institutions with immense wealth and resources pat themselves on their backs for simply acknowledging Pride 50 years later (often in self-serving ways), it is rightfully seen as distasteful.
How are we using our platforms to meaningfully change the culture? How are we allocating our resources in ways that align with the rhetoric of care we put into our Pride month statements? How do we respond when the most marginalized challenge us to do more?
At the University of Oregon, that means asking how we can build on our efforts to empower our campus LGBTQIA+ community. In 2018, our university was recognized as the top college for LGBTQIA+ students in Oregon by the Campus Pride Index, but there is still so much more to do when it comes to improving services, increasing visibility and cultivating community, especially for LGBTQIA+ students, staff and faculty of color.
During Pride 2022, we hope you join the UO and Eugene community in the various events and activities happening throughout the city and Lane County. We also hope you will join us in the deep, systemic year-round work that honors the resistance of Stonewall and creates a truly inclusive and transformative culture.