People Didn’t Die for a Whitewashed, Corporatized Pride Month
Rallies like Brooklyn Liberation are a crucial way the larger Pride tradition can expand to welcome everyone
Pride Month 2020 has been different, to say the least. In addition to a pandemic that has driven celebrations online, the start of June was marked by countless people taking to the streets as Black Lives Matter demonstrations spread to every state. Such a confluence has highlighted an ongoing reckoning about the ways in which the broader LGBTQ+ community excludes and further marginalizes those of us who are Black and Brown. While this month is often an opportunity for queer and trans people to let our rainbow flags fly proudly, it increasingly has become just another set of thirty-something days.
For Sasha Alexander, founder of the nonprofit Black Trans Media, Pride began as “a place of refuge.” The 34-year-old first attended New York City Pride at age 12 — an experience that indirectly inspired them to start Gay-Straight Alliances in their middle and high schools. “I knew in my little Black and Brown body that it was nice to be somewhere where I was being celebrated rather than torn down or harassed,” they say. But upon learning about the history of Pride, and having their own unpleasant experiences at the event, Alexander began distancing themselves from the annual celebration. “I started to really understand that this wasn’t the history of our community being honored there, and that this was a place where we weren’t supposed to talk about racism or be critical of cops,” they say. “It just feels like Pride is completely out of touch with its roots.”
Those roots are in protest — protest led by Black and Brown queer and trans women, no less. On June 28, 1969, the now-iconic Stonewall uprising, which is credited with launching the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, began. It was spurred by a tussle involving Stormé DeLarverie, a biracial, butch-presenting lesbian, and police who had raided the Stonewall Inn and were arresting patrons who either didn’t have proper IDs or were wearing clothing not associated with their assigned sex at birth. Similar raids were all…