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February 27, 2024

Feature: As A Trans Person, Pride Month Feels Different This Year

This Inclusive Individual Article was written by Raven Solomon Enterprise's Content Manager, Reina Campbell (she/her/hers).

June is Pride Month, meaning rainbow products have hit the shelves, and rainbow filters have been layered upon corporate logos. Pride Month is intended to be an exciting time of community, coalition building, and celebration for members of the LGBTQIAP2S+ community. In June, and indeed, all year long, we can work to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, and Two-Spirit individuals. 

 Progress Pride Flag

But this year, Pride Month feels different.

As an LGBTQ+ community member that is of a Trans Femme experience, I wake up every day and face the realities of existing as what so many consider to be "a man in a dress." From the stares and whispers to the blatant discrimination I've faced, I have long lived a life that, in and of itself, is Queer. Daily, I illuminate my identity, aesthetics, determination, and resilience to question and interrogate the heteronormative systems around me.

Never have I felt the need to be as aware and "on guard" as I am these days. From a rise in anti-trans legislation to the silencing of drag artists, times are scary – and I often feel unsafe.

What does make me feel safe, however, is resting in the joy and care that exists in Queer spaces. Collectively, we have always resisted and thrived, not despite our circumstances but in spite of them.

This year, to feel the embrace of our Trancestors (our gone but not forgotten Trans elders), I invite you to learn about the histories of LGBTQ+ communities in our society while we active our allyship through an intersectional lens.

LGBTQ+ Histories:

Queer and trans people have always existed – full stop. Across the globe, Black and Indigenous cultures have understood gender beyond the Western binary. Many of these cultures have significantly been impacted by imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy, widely erasing indigenous understandings of gender.

LGBTQ+ people in this country and those who have migrated here, forced or otherwise, have faced discrimination and persecution since our Nation's troubled inception.

  • 1649 – Sarah White Norman and Mary Vincent Hammon are charged with "lewd behavior" in Plymouth, Massachusetts, believed to be the first conviction for lesbian behavior in the new world.
  • 19th Century – Citing sodomy laws, restrictions target LGBTQ+ communities, essentially criminalizing the very act of being Queer or Trans in public.
  • Early-mid 20th Century: Those considered to be "cross-dressing" could be arrested, and the Lavender Scare resulted in thousands of suspected LGBTQ+ government employees being fired for their sexuality.
  • 1950 – U.S. Congress issued the report entitled "Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government," distributed to members of Congress after the federal government had covertly investigated employees' sexual orientations. The report states that “since homosexuality is a mental illness, homosexuals ‘constitute security risks’ to the Nation.”
  • 1953 (April 27) – Executive Order 10450 is issued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, banning homosexuals from working for the federal government, stating they are a security risk. This order stayed in place until 1993 when President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress enacted the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.

It wasn't until the 1960s that the modern movement for gay liberation, as we truly understand it, was born.


The iconic neon sign of The Stonewall Inn

In the 1960s, like in many states, it was perfectly legal for State Liquor Authorities, such as The State of New York's, to refuse to grant liquor licenses to establishments that knowingly served LGBTQ+ customers. In 1969, the Mafias of New York Cities often owned and operated gay and lesbian bars. These groups would overcharge customers and pay police officers to look the other way.

Nevertheless, in the late-night hours of June 28, 1969, nine police officers entered The Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ+ bar in the Greenwich Village. The Stonewall was seen as a true pillar of the NYC LGBTQ+ community at the time. The officers began to become hostile with the patrons, and crowds accumulated in protest inside and outside the bar.

Amid the crowd setting the bar on fire (note that the officers eventually escaped the burning building unharmed), Marsha P. Johnson threw the first brick toward the masses of police, and the Stonewall Riots began. Lasting several days, LGBTQ+ community members showed up in solidarity to let the police know: we will no longer be targeted or harassed.

A Black Trans woman, Marsha "Pay It No Mind" Johnson is primarily considered to be one of the founders of our modern gay and LGBTQ+ liberation movement. Along with Sylvia Rivera, a Latina Trans Woman, the two activists created S.T.A.R., the "Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries," which provided housing to LGBTQ+ youth and adults in New York City.

In remembering Stonewall, we must never forget the following:

  • Pride started as a riot.
  • Since our fight for liberation began, Black Trans women and Trans People of Color have paved the way for progress. 

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

The AIDS and H.I.V. Crises:

When AIDS and H.I.V. (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and human immunodeficiency virus, respectively) first appeared in North America, many quickly labeled the illness a "gay disease" that some considered a moral punishment for gay men and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In May of 1982, in an article titled "New Homosexual Disorder Worries Health Officials," the New York Times first published the term "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency," or GRID, contributing to the widespread misconception that AIDS only affects gay men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1981 through 1990, 100,777 deaths among persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were reported to C.D.C. by local, state, and territorial health departments. AIDS killed 324,029 men and women between 1987 and 1998. The societal stigma surrounding members of the LGBTQ+ community prevented the healthcare system from taking this crisis as seriously as it was and is. Because of these inequities, an entire generation of gay men and LGBTQ+ folks died from a lack of life-saving care.

If we discovered a life-threatening sexually transmitted illness that directly impacted straight men at disproportionate rates, what kind of response might we have seen? The truth is, though, because the healthcare system centers straight, cisgender men, such a circumstance would likely be improbable – they would attack and destroy the virus much like the systems-at-be are trying to attack and destroy the LGBTQ+ community.

In 1986, the Aids Memorial Quilt project began, and nationwide understanding, awareness, and healing began to flourish as we challenged the widespread inequities that LGBTQ+ people face within the healthcare system. 

The National AIDS Memorial Quilt Project in Washington, D.C.

The National AIDS Memorial Quilt Project in Washington, D.C.

To date, LGBTQ+ People of Color are much more likely to face disparities regarding seeking preventative treatment for AIDS, HIV, and related complications. The lasting impacts of slavery, Jim Crow, and other inequities have created a health care system wherein social determinants of health often leave Black and Brown LGBTQ+ folks out of spaces that provide lifesaving care.

While modern times have allowed us to understand further how Queer and Trans communities are targeted and dismissed, our climate is such that some legislatures have created a near-authoritarian style of oversight and social micromanagement of LGBTQ+ bodies that is frightening.

Queer and Trans Lives Are Being Targeted.

Mapping Trans-Inclusion and Anti-Trans Legislation (Source: Erin Reed, “Erin in the Morning”)

Mapping Trans-Inclusion and Anti-Trans Legislation (Source: Erin Reed, “Erin in the Morning”)

Please make no mistake about it: the 500+ anti-trans pieces of legislation that the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) is tracking will have catastrophic, daily, real-world impacts on LGBTQ+ people. I believe the bills meant to silence Drag as a means of performance and community, for example, are intended to criminalize Transgender people.

Consider – if an "anti-drag" bill is written in such a way that it criminalizes those wearing clothing for "the opposite gender,” who is to say I won't be arrested for wearing a dress and heels in public?

After months of introducing Drag-banning bills across the country, a federal judge ruled that Tennessee's anti-drag law was too broad, signaling what might be a show of support (albeit minimal) at the national level for Drag performers.

While speaking about Drag, let us remember and center: Drag is an art form that has long existed, and it is one of expression, community, and celebration. It is the sexualizing of Drag that has led to many fearing drag queens to be "groomers," a horrible term meant to identify someone who is a sexual predator and assailant.

Now more than ever, we must support our local drag queens and show up for Trans people. While not all Drag performers identify as trans, and to be Transgender does not imply that one is a drag performer, there is an overlap and intersection between these communities.

Beyond the Ballot Box – The Impacts of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation:

The recent rise in anti-Queer and Trans legislation affects people beyond what can be measured or assessed via legislation. Below are some of the real, very tragic impacts of the climate LGBTQ+ people currently live in:

Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws Increase Poverty Rates

  • "According to the report, (anti-LGBTQ+) laws contribute to significantly higher poverty rates among L.G.B.T.Q. Americans and create unfair financial penalties in the form of higher taxes, reduced wages and Social Security income, increased healthcare costs, and more."

Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws Impact Youth's Mental Health

  • "86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health."

Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws' Impact on Health Status and Wellbeing

  • "More than half of LGBTQI+ adults reported that "recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQI+ people" moderately or significantly affected their mental health or made them feel less safe."

Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws Impact H.B.C.U.s

  • "(There are) concerns that the spread of anti-LGBTQ legislation, and what some call anti-Black legislation, could lead to a mass exodus of Black and L.G.B.T.Q. folks from Southern states (and Universities.)"

Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws Impact Democracy

  • "To lead on the promotion of democracy and human rights abroad, we must ensure that democracy and rights—including L.G.B.T. rights—are preserved and promoted here at home."

Why Pride is Different This Year:

Between Target back peddling on their support of LGBTQ+ and pride-themed merchandise and the L.A. Dodgers un-inviting an LGBTQ+ community group to their annual "Pride Night" (before re-inviting them after facing backlash), it feels like, now more than ever, many organizations and corporations only want to support LGBTQ+ rights and communities when it financially benefits them.

With state lawmakers quite literally staking their political career on "Don't Say Gay" laws and massive book-bans in schools across the country, it seems like our society is one so profoundly intertwined with capitalism and "family values" yet only certain kinds of families can make decisions for themselves and their families.

This year, it has been challenging to center myself and my surroundings in Queer joy and happiness. With so many ongoing, targeted attacks, it feels like many are trying to diminish and erase not only our communities and celebrations, but our voices and our very existence.

I remember, though, my Pride Month Affirmation:

“Amidst the fear, I will let pride and confidence flow in my body, and throughout the light I shine and share with others, as I say: Happy Pride Month.”

Take Action:

LGBTQ+ Civil and Human Rights Supporters Gather in Washington, D.C.

LGBTQ+ Civil and Human Rights Supporters Gather in Washington, D.C.

Queer and Trans lives are under such attack and scrutiny that we need actionable, passionate allies in our corner.

In addition to including your pronouns in your introductions and email signatures, and wearing a rainbow-themed article of clothing, there are multiple ways to demonstrate allyship towards the LGBTQ+ community that have direct impacts. And no, buying a Pride shirt at Target does not count!

Pride Month might feel different this year, but I will not let the current political and social climate dim the light exuding from my rainbow. I invite you to shine alongside me by showing up for LGBTQ+ communities.

Happy Pride Month!

Raven Solomon Enterprises is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion education and consulting firm that aims to help organizations integrate DEI through exploration, motivation, and activation. Through a myriad of services (including Keynote Speaking, DEI Learning and Development, Strategic Advisory, and Leadership Coaching), RSE helps organizations make spaces more inclusive.

Reina Campbell serves as the Content and Community Manager for Raven Solomon Enterprises. With an M.Ed. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Reina brings 5+ years of program management, community development, and social justice education, advocacy, and outreach experience to the RSE team.

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Reina Campbell

Reina Campbell (she/her/hers) serves as the Content and Community Manager for Raven Solomon Enterprises. With an M.Ed. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Reina brings several years of program management, community development, and social justice education, advocacy, and outreach experience to the RSE team.

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