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Remembering Stonewall: how are Pride and BLM linked?

June is Pride month, where the LGBTQ+ community comes together to celebrate their identities and community across the world. This is usually done through street parades and other celebrations. But this year has been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and people kept at home for public safety.

However, this June has seen many march to protest the police brutality against the Black community following the murder of George Floyd. Much like Pride, these protests have become global. There are now calls to dismantle institutional racism and the restructuring of authoritative powers. Some have regarded this as a Pride month returning to its roots in rebellion, driven by the Black community. 

Pride began as a resistance against oppression. It was a protest against the police and their mistreatment of the marginalised in America. With origins in the Black community and the calls for the end to police brutality, it is not hard to draw comparisons between the beginning of Pride and the current Black Lives Matter protests.

With origins in the Black community and the calls for the end to police brutality, it is not hard to draw comparisons between the beginning of Pride and the current Black Lives Matter movement.

The celebration of Pride began with the Stonewall Riots. In June 1969, gay bars in Greenwich Village in New York had repeatedly been targeted by police officers in raids. With homosexuality still illegal at the time, places such as the Stonewall Inn gave LGBTQ+ people the ability to socialise in an environment without a fear of being outed and express themselves fully. 

On the 28th June, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the police and many inside we lined up to be arrested. However, in response to this particular raid, there was a resistance. Those inside the bar refused to show identification to the police. Members assaulted on arrest called out for the crowd to do something. Then those outside the bar retaliated.

Objects were thrown at the police until they were forced to barricade themselves in the Stonewall Inn. Protestors overpowered them, took back the bar and set it on fire. The rebellion against the targeting and attacks endured by the LGBT+ community was celebrated from then onwards and grew into the yearly celebration of Pride.

With 51 years since the night at the Stonewall Inn, the celebration of Pride has spread across the globe. The first Pride parade, known then as the Christopher Street Day Parade, took place in New York in 1970. A celebration of the riots followed two years later in London. Pride is now celebrated across six continents and June internationally recognised as the month for LGBTQ+ celebrations. 

With 51 years since the night at the Stonewall Inn, the celebration of Pride has spread across the globe.

At the heart of this narrative of Pride sit people of colour – most notably Black, trans women of colour. Those such as Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracey are regarded as being the backbone of the calls for LGBTQ+ rights in the US. 

Marsha P. Johnson is seen to be an iconic figure from the night of the riots. Whilst disputed whether she actually ‘threw the first brick at Stonwall’, Johnson is regarded as driving forward the gay pride movement in New York from after that night.

Johnson became part of the Gay Liberation Front in the events aftermath. The group helped to begin the yearly memorialisation of the night at the Stonewall Inn. This was due to the fact it was the first notable gay resistance to societal oppression and police brutality in the US. Along with Sylvia Rivera, a Latina drag queen, Johnson went on to lead sit-in protests and found STAR, a shelter for young gay and trans street kids. 

It was the first notable gay resistance to societal oppression and police brutality in the US.

Storme DeLarverie, a mix-raced butch lesbian, is also regarded as being an iconic figure from Stonewall. She is identified as being a woman who was bludgeoned by a police officer baton whose mistreatment sparked the crowd’s actions against the police. 

Again, despite facing disputes as to the factual accuracies of her involvement at Stonewall, DeLarvarie’s prominence in the New York LGBT+ community continued. She became a bouncer at lesbian bars to protect those inside from unwanted attention and abuse. 

Yet 51 years later Johnson, DeLarverie, Griffin-Gracey and others from minority backgrounds in the LGBT+ community often remain omitted from narratives. The 2015 film, Stonewall, was critiqued by Stonewall Veteran Mark Segal as being “uninterested in any history that doesn’t revolve around its white, male, stereotypically attractive protagonist”. 

Yet 51 years later Johnson, DeLarverie, Griffin-Gracey and others from minority backgrounds in the LGBTQ+ community often remain omitted from narratives.

Furthermore, Pride and its development from a night of resistance and rebellion into a mainstream celebration has caused issues. Black and POC LGBTQ+ members, whose predecessors sparked radical change through the Stonewall Riots, have been left feeling isolated from the celebration of Pride. 

Some feel that the LGBTQ+ scene, Pride and its commercialisation to have been commandeered by white, cis-gendered gay men. This has left people of colour to have to carve out a space specific to them, safe from racism on top of homophobia and transphobia. 

Some feel that the LGBTQ+ scene, Pride and its commercialisation to have been commndeered by white cis-gendered gay men.

The establishment of separate Black pride events, flags and spaces suggests that the black community no longer feels affinity to Pride.  Research by the charity Stonewall found that racism was “rife in the LGBT+ community”. LGBTQ+ members of colour have faced what is called ‘double discrimination’ – exclusion for both their race and sexuality. 

The establishment of separate Black pride events, flags and spaces suggests that the black community no longer feels affinity to Pride.

Last year, The BBC published an article on several instances of racial discrimination that were noted at Manchester Pride. People were followed around by officials, refused to be served as well as objectified and fetishized by other Pride goers. 

The statistics about black the Black transgender community can be seen to highlight how the intersection of race and their gender identity have led to them to become some of the most vulnerable in society. Trans women of colour are disproportionately more likely to live below the poverty line, be unemployed, engage in sex work and experience abuse. 

Black trans people are also being attacked and murdered as disproportionate rates to white trans people. Amidst the Black Lives Matter protests Tony McDade, Dominque “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton – all under the age of 40 – were killed.

Black trans people are being attacked and murdered at disproportionate rates to white trans people.

The violence against the Black LGBTQ+ community is to have highlighted a conditionality or hierarchy attached to the statement ‘Black Lives Matter’. The attack on trans woman Iyanna Dior in the midst of the Minneapolis protests is seen by some to epitomise the Black LGBTQ+ experience. They are willing to fight for rights for others but are rewarded with abuse within both communities.

In response, there are now active efforts to try to highlight the unique struggle of Black trans people and dismantle their persecution due to intersecting discriminatory attitudes. There is now the active use of hashtags such as “All Black Lives Matter” and “Black Trans Lives Matter”. On the 15th of June, a 15,000 strong protest took place in New York specifically dedicated to Black trans lives. 

There are now active efforts to try to highlight the unique struggle of Black trans people and dismantle their persecution due to intersecting discriminatory attitudes.

People have been urged to donate to organisation such as The Okra Project, House of GG (set up by Miss Major) and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. This is in order to help to combat systemic discrimination that drives Black trans women towards a worse quality of life. 

The real story of Pride cannot be told without praising the influence of Black LGBTQ+ people. Back in the 1960s they had to fight for two sets of civil rights. Over 50 years later, they still remain fighting for acceptance in both communities.

However, this June may see the start of the prioritisation of Black trans lives and making sure they are protected too. This, to some, is a true honouring of the the actions of Black LGBTQ+ members at the Stonewall Inn. 

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