Gay Pride 2020
This month, we celebrate gay pride. Why June? Because on June 28, 1961, there was an uprising in New York that set off six nights of riots at the Stonewall Inn. Queers were tired of being beaten and arrested for being queer. So, we celebrate Pride Month in June to honor those transgender, lesbian, and gay people (mostly the women --trans and cis) who intensified our fight for simple human rights.
Now we are witnessing riots all over the country. Why? Well, the time is a powder keg. We have unprecedented unemployment, over a hundred thousand people (largely the elderly and African Americans) are dead from a pandemic, and the systemic violence against African Americans continues apace. Three people in May. The most recent, the killing of George Floyd, sickens everyone I know—left and right. (Thank God for cell phone cameras, or we white folks could maintain our denial of what has always been there.)
Of course, there is some evidence that people are traveling in from outside the affected communities to organize and take part in the riots. Some people blame the radical left, some the white supremacists. I imagine both would be happy with the chaos, whether they are causing it or not.
But there is genuine and justifiable rage. And people from the affected communities are rioting too.
I don't like riots. When I was 11, my mom got tickets to Fiesta Flambeau; it was a big deal—she was so happy. There was a race riot that night: some African American people began dancing in the street behind a great marching band. They were slowing down the progress of the parade. The police came in with billy clubs, and the rocks and bottles (and even chairs from the stands where we were sitting) started flying. Who knows, is this the origin story of my fear of crowds?
But even at 11, I knew it wasn't right that people were being beaten because they were dancing and having a good time DURING FIESTA. This probably is the origin story of my deep desire for social justice (this, and the Kent State riots, which happened the year before). I think of that night whenever a white person tells me that San Antonio is a place of racial harmony. Not always—even now.
So this pride month, I mourn for cities that lay in ruins, especially Minneapolis, where I lived for a short time. And I mourn for the African Americans, the men and the trans women, whose lives are cut short by systemic racism and transphobia. This month, when we celebrate our trans mothers of color who stood up for us by throwing pennies and rocks at the police, perhaps we should be a little less judgmental about riots.
I hate riots.
But let’s not forget what brought these on. In 2019 there were 29 days when the police did not kill someone. And African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people (mappingpoliceviolence.org). Of course, it’s not just the police killing African Americans; it’s also civilian racists. But the horror of mass death at the hands of people sworn to protect all of us? That’s something special.
Happy Pride Month. It’s time for all of us to stand together: African American and queer, Trans and Cis gender, white folks and people of color. There are two deadly diseases in our nation; both threaten the very fabric of our society. We cannot survive without each other.