Pride Month comes at a time this year when the world seems to be at a turning point. Voices fighting against police brutality towards black people in this country have been largely amplified in the past few weeks, and Covid-19 continues to affect Americans who long to return to their families, businesses, and prior lives. But what does it mean to celebrate Pride month (and Pride in general) at a moment when the country, and the world, feels so broken? How can all of us, both LGBTQ+ individuals and allies alike, support the LGBTQ+ community with the understanding that other minority groups may be currently facing some of the same issues that impacted the gay community during the gay rights movement?
The answer must begin with education, and a history lesson. In June 1969, the Stonewall Riots began when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. During a time in American history when engaging in public gay behavior such as holding hands, kissing or dancing with a same-sex individuals was illegal, the Stonewall Riots served as a demonstration against discrimination and a catalyst for the gay rights movement. But what is often unacknowledged is the deep impact that black and Latinx trans women had during the Stonewall riots, with activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera putting their lives on the line to support LGBTQ+ individuals’ right to live openly and freely. As queer people were beaten, ridiculed, and even killed by police for their sexuality or gender expression, it was the voices of activists, many of whom were people of color, that propelled America to begin changing the ways it viewed the LGBTQ+ community.
Fast forward 51 years later, and black people in the US are experiencing death at the hands of police brutality at alarming rates.
From Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland to George Floyd, Americans have been forced to reckon with countless stories of needless murders of black people at extremely disproportionate rates compared to white people. Often less known are the deaths of black trans people, like Nina Pop and Tony McDade, who were both murdered in 2020 simply for expressing their gender identity openly. Even today, life is still not safe for many LGBTQ+ people in this country. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people, especially trans women of color, risk their lives every day just by living as their true selves.
It is very easy to forget just how far we have come in this country regarding our perception of LGBTQ+ individuals, but it is even easier to forget the numerous political and cultural contributions that black and Latinx trans women have made to progress the LGBTQ+ movement as a whole. And while there is surely progress with regard to acceptance of people within the LGBTQ+ community, the fight for equality has not stopped for many black and brown LGBTQ+ individuals the way it has for largely white gay and lesbian folks. If we value the lives and freedom of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, we must make it our goal to fight for every person within this community. We cannot stand aside and claim that the problem of LGBTQ+ discrimination is fixed when the problem continues to be a reality for many individuals in this country, and specifically for people of color.
This is not to say that we as a country should not celebrate Pride. In fact, now more than ever it is even more important to raise our voices and speak out in support of LGBTQ+ people who may still be struggling to survive in this country. But by celebrating Pride, we must remember that Pride began as a series of revolutionary protests and riots fighting for change, often with black and brown people of color at the forefront. We must keep these individuals in mind when we continue to fight for equality for all and understand that issues of discrimination and lack of safety are still affecting vulnerable communities in this country. By focusing our efforts in these communities and continuing to provide resources and donations to raise these communities up, we can celebrate Pride and the progress this country has made while continuing to advocate for change.After all, that is what Pride is really about.
In this vein, The Mandel Law Firm has heeded the call to promote inclusivity and awareness, particularly in recognition of LGBTQ+ identified clients who may have experiences that members of the firm have not encountered.
Steven J. Mandel has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ issues for over 35 years and has taken on LGBTQ+ clients even during a time when many lawyers were not willing to assist this population. As we enter into Pride Month 2020, our attorneys at The Mandel Law Firm are 100% committed to continuing Steve’s vision for advocacy and visibility of LGBTQ+ clients. The Mandel Law Firm is committed to providing an inclusive and well-informed service to all clients within the LGBTQ+ community and is in the process of making website and language revisions that better reflect the needs of our LGBTQ+ clients. By better understanding the intersectional needs of our clients, such as their preferred pronouns and the unique life events that they have experienced as an LGBTQ+ individual, The Mandel Law Firm can continue to support and advocate for its LGBTQ+ clients moving forward.
This Pride, The Mandel Law Firm is committed to celebrating our LGBTQ+ clients by always placing a focus on inclusivity, intersectionality and visibility of the LGBTQ+ community.
Happy Pride Month to all!