June is Pride Month, which means a barrage of rainbow flags, parades, and tens of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships. It’s the time to go to Pride festivals and come away with rainbow frisbees from grocery store chains, rainbow USB drives from software companies, and rainbow stress balls from local car rental companies.
One year after the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land, the movement is in the midst of an existential crisis. The reality is that many LGBTQ organizations do not center the lived experiences of most of the community, while simultaneously soaking up many of the resources the community has to offer.
That dichotomy has stunted the ability for grassroots organizers to sustain recent local wins — or to sufficiently respond to the ever-present violence and discrimination that LGBTQ people, especially people of color, face each day. Faced with this gap in leadership, many organizations have decided to cede the future of the movement to corporations and lawyers — believing that we have exhausted our capacity to win at the grassroots level, and must now move our fight to board rooms and courtrooms.
As the struggle has continued to heat up in North Carolina and elsewhere, we’re seeing a volley of lawsuits and laudatory comments about corporate “allies” from organizations like the Human Rights Campaign — while ignoring the painstaking work of grassroots organizing that has been led by courageous groups centering the needs and experiences of queer and trans people of color.
Rather than focusing on how to support and amplify the work of folks on the ground — people who have lived as queer and trans in North Carolina for decades — HRC has instead turned the LGBTQ movement into a contest to determine which corporation can rush to the defense of our community first.