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Missing Pride

June is LGBT Pride month. With the recent ruling in favor of marriage equality, a new energy fills the community. But who are we forgetting in this time of perceived triumph?

“Pride, GR” is a personal essay series set to coincide with the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a series of trans women of color-led violent protests and actions that sparked the gay rights movement in the United States in Greenwich Village in1969. This series will feature unique voices and perspectives from members of the LGBT community in Grand Rapids and their experiences with their identity and exisiting in this city. You can read all the articles under the tag "Pride, GR".

On the morning of June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court made marriage equality a reality throughout the country, in a 5-4 vote.  This is certainly a major turning point in history, one I’ll surely be telling younger generations about as I grow gray.

So before I begin, let me extend my most heartfelt congratulations to all the families who’ve strived to have the benefits and recognition of being who they’ve always been: families.  Your efforts will not be forgotten, and your resilience is exemplary.

But there’s a feeling of trepidation in my heart. How many efforts and causes have been overlooked in favor of the palpable, moderate-approved, right to marriage? It was just this week, in what I wish were merely a scene from a dark comedy, President Barack Obama had Jennicet Gutierrez, a trans women of color and an undocumented citizen’s rights activist, escorted out during a Pride event. Let me reiterate: The most arguably influential person in the United States, who publicly struggled to view non-heteronormative bonds as legally valid, had an undocumented trans Latina, who represents one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, taken out of his event to commemorate the efforts of the LGBT community.

Friends, I just can't find my Pride. I want to? But I can't. The marriage equality ruling came in around 10am that Friday morning, followed by Immanuel AME’s Reverend Pinckney's funeral at 11. Three little boys had been held and cuffed in my beloved Martin Luther King Park two days earlier. Suddenly, Tylenol wants me to know regardless of who I romance, their product still works, and they’ll gladly accept my money. Condos and lofts are being built in Grand Rapids neighborhoods where living in luxury was a pipe dream for its previous residents. I’m Black, I come from a working class family, and I’m queer. The above events matter, creating mixed emotions in me. These things overtake my Pride, and instead envelope me in deep fear of what the future holds.

During Pride month, popular figures the media celebrates are Harvey Milk, Dan Savage, Ellen Degeneres, among other very prominent, class privileged, White individuals. But what of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson? Audre Lorde and James Baldwin? Gloria Anzaldúa? It’s time to start thinking about, who we owe our Pride to. I’d start the conversation at a very popular, local gay nightclub, but after being nearly thrown out for speaking out on being sexual harassed by a staff member, followed a week later by a Black woman taking blows while laid out before its entrance also by staff, I can’t say I’m welcomed there. Early Pride gatherings were marches, not parades. We came to be able to name our experiences and persevere in times of extreme adversity, because of them.  The loud, proud, trailblazing, unapologetic, fearless, marching, Black and Brown, disabled and homeless, trans and queer folks of yesteryear. The countless who died early deaths and lived in social exile because they were too racially concerned, too radical, too low class.

Furthermore, who are we silencing with wedding cake samples and HRC stickers placed over their mouths? As rates of LGBT homelessness, suicide, deportation into hellish detention centers, mass incarceration and murder, especially for trans women of color, rise, how quickly can we redirect our attention? Additionally, why do we appear to ignore the intersections of immigration status, class, race, ability, gender, and sexuality. 

I fear it’s because, to many, there are only a select group of "respectable" members of the LGBT community who deserve a platform. Sadly, Ms. Gutierrez is not the first trans Latina to be hissed at, shushed and pushed away by people, who are supposed to be her open-minded, empathetic, socially conscious, allies.  Sylvia Rivera, who worked tirelessly with Marsha P Johnson to support homeless young trans women of color, endured similar treatment when she spoke at the infamous 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally.

Growing up with a Baptist background, I was often told there was a time for joy, a time for pain, and a time for healing. I didn’t go to Grand Rapids Pride this year. My heart was too heavy, and it didn’t have a space to mourn. 

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