While we have a lot to be proud of, our fight for equality is far from over.
The LGBTQIA+ rights movement was born out of the Stonewall Riots that happened on June 28, 1969 after the New York police mercilessly raided the Greenwich Village gay bar. They arrested and assaulted many queer folks, most of them were queer people of colour. This lead to the LGBTQIA+ community uniting like never before — thousands from the queer community took to the streets to protest discrimination. The Gay Rights Movement gained momentum because of a black, trans woman — Marsha P Johnson.
Pride Month, personally for me, continues to be a time to remember Johnson, and channelise her strength, her dogged determination, her relentless courage to stand up for countless of voiceless queer people.
Pride is a reminder for everyone that queer people, especially queer people of colour, are heavily marginalised, be it with regards to biases, equal rights, and opportunities, stigma, and under the law that fails to protect one of the most vulnerable sections of its citizens. It is also a time to take stock of the fact that while a part of the global community can celebrate Pride freely, being queer continues to be a punishable crime in 69 countries, the death penalty being one of the punishments.
It is a time for us to remember that the fight for equality is far from being over. None of us are free until all of us are free. Pride is, more importantly, for all those countless people who openly cannot be themselves, or have a voice. It is also important to understand and recognise that we must work towards more representation for trans, non-binary people, and queer people of colour — the most marginalised and underrepresented communities in the queer community. The vast and varied lived experiences of these underrepresented sections are often not presented in their fullness and diversity and hence, there is always a dearth of representation that brings forward nuanced experience into the spotlight. Most queer people who work tirelessly for the queer community continue to exist at the margins of our community and in society, and for them, Pride isn’t just a celebration, but an act of defiance.
In 2021, where we stand in India, given the many nationwide widespread protests, Pride Month serves as a reminder to all of us that Pride and activism go hand in hand — our voices, our stories that have gone unheard, must be heard. People are being attacked, killed, fired, and denied equal opportunities because of who they are, who they love, their castes, or faith. This is precisely why we must continue to stand together and choose to unabashedly celebrate our identities. This is the time we must remind ourselves that our strengths truly come from our diversity — a celebration of inclusion, of acceptance, of unity, of love.
It is vital that we never forget that Pride started as a protest, and we must continue to use it as a platform to express dissent against societal norms and political regimes that are working hard to divide us.
Pride is also a time to ensure that the voices that have changed our world by making it more accepting, more embracing, are celebrated and amplified. This is also a time for countless young queer people to know that they are valued, they are loved, their lives are precious, and there is a place for them in this world.
Queer lives matter. To be active and visible in the world is the only way to create conversations, to enable dialogues that will eventually lead to understanding, acceptance, and support. We have lots to be proud of, but our fight for equality is far from over. This is not the time to be complacent. This is the time to unite, to work together and build a world where all queer people are accepted without any exceptions.
Fight. Be visible. Show up as your true authentic selves 24/7. Educate those around you. Don’t tolerate us, don’t accept us, celebrate us. We belong.