Beginning today, June 1, we mark LGBTQ+ Pride month in Marin County and globally. It is a critical time to recall the origins of the movement for our hard fought rights – a movement that has achieved massive advances for our community, but which still has far to go. We have achieved things it was difficult to imagine just two decades ago: the ability to marry whomever we love, much broader public support for the idea that LGBTQ+ people deserve equal rights and dignity, and representation of our stories and identities in the media. But we still lack basic protections against discrimination in housing and employment at the federal level, and the Electoral College chose a president who regularly wages attacks on LGBTQ+ people.
The movement for LGBTQ+ civil rights was definitively sparked with a furious riot at the Stonewall Inn. Led by Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson and Latinx trans activist Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall Riotfollowed major demonstrations at the Black Cat Tavern in Los Angeles, and Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco where transgender activists of color stood on the front lines against police harassment and violence. Queer and trans people of color have stood up time and time again for our community to say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We now see queer Black activists responding to the state of emergency that has resulted from countless murders of Black people across the country and the world. Two out of the three founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Alicia Garza, are queer.
Protests – even riots – have been an effective tool in enacting real change.
The first Pride events in the country were actually protests. In recent years, they have looked more like wild parties. But underneath, they are critical tools in our efforts to achieve our full civil rights agenda. As friends at Equality California said so well in a communication today, “Pride is Protest!” How, then, should we think of Pride this year? This month? And this day? A celebration? No. Time for reflection and action, yes! No one is truly free until ALL of us are free and valued and live with dignity and respect. Although the initial fights for LGBTQ+ rights were fought by trans activists of color, they are still the ones experiencing major discrimination and bias. LGBTQ+ people of color have called attention to racism and rejection that exists within our OWN community – and their righteous calls for greater inclusion have often been met with deaf ears. This is unacceptable.
What does this mean for The Spahr Center? We recognize that we have work to do to better serve queer and trans people of color in Marin, and to fight for the well-being of ALL LGBTQ+ people in the county. In 2017, Marin County was named the most racially inequitable county in California. We know that a majority of the clients served in our LGBTQ+ programs are white, and only our HIV program mirrors the county’s diversity. We are committed to prioritizing racial equity in our work moving forward. Here are some initial steps we are taking:
- We are reaching out to organizations across the county learning how we can better serve communities of color and be in solidarity with their work;
- We are launching a summer social justice fellowship for LGBTQ+ young people to learn about the intersectional nature of oppression and take action to make change in Marin;
- We are prioritizing hiring therapists of color and seeking a bilingual Spanish-speaking therapist; and
- We are planning a town hall with partners in the County to discuss the intersection of racism, homophobia and transphobia.
We urge our community, especially our White community members, to join us in this work. It is our duty to take action to protect Black lives and dismantle the structures that oppress people of color.
As Marsha P. Johnson said, “No Pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us!