Queers who protest Pride events are no better than anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives

Pro Palestine protesters gathered in Jacksonville on May 1, 2024 to protest the Biden administration's support of Israel's war in Gaza as Vice President Kamala Harris held an event
Pro Palestine protesters gathered in Jacksonville on May 1, 2024 to protest the Biden administration's support of Israel's war in Gaza as Vice President Kamala Harris held an event Photo: Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK via IMAGN

Throughout LGBTQ+ Pride month, it was obvious to me that members of the LGBTQ community don’t know the history of what Stonewall or Pride represents. And some members even went so far as to disgrace our history and everyone who fought for the privilege that they have to be out.

I was at Stonewall that first night. I’m the guy who wrote on the walls and streets “Tomorrow Night Stonewall,” which helped organize the second night. Yes, Stonewall was more than just that first night, and I’ve been fighting for equality each and everyday for the last 55 years.

Over the years, I’ve been angered at how the action my friends and I took has been misrepresented and used for political purposes, but this year has been especially egregious on the part of those seeking to destroy a core part of our movement for equality.

As one of less than a handful of those of us from Stonewall and the Gay Liberation Front remaining, it’s hard to see the point of Stonewall and Pride being taken so far out of context.

Stonewall and Pride are interconnected, and they both represent the same idea: We will no longer be invisible, and you will no longer have the pleasure of our silence. We will be out loud and proud.

Today, many people have the privilege of being out thanks to the work we did. But back in 1969, 99% of our community was in the closet. Almost everything we did — congregating, intimacy, even being served alcohol — was illegal; many of us, including myself, still have our bail receipts.

Thanks to the work of activists over the decades, LGBTQ+ people can now gather freely and be out and work and even rise to a C-suite or the head of a non-profit. There are even LGBTQ+ nonprofits now, which we literally had to invent. We did all that by one word: visibility. That is what some members of our community tried to erase this year.

This year in many cities, members of our community attempted to stop Pride by attempting to block Pride parades chanting “No pride during genocide.” Others wrote posts asking what there is to be proud of.

All of the people who did that do not understand the meaning of Stonewall, our history, or Pride. They forget, or simply choose to disregard, the reason that they’re able to be out of the closet is because of the visibility we brought to the world, because of the rioting at Stonewall, and because of the community created where there was none before. That visibility is more important today than ever with over 450 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced across the nation designed to make us invisible again.

Those who tried to stop Pride want to take us back to the 1950s. They want us to go back to being silent. You can feel strongly about the situation in Gaza, but not at the expense of erasing our visibility. It’s because of Pride that the LGBTQ+ community can publicly exist — with all the differing opinions of any other group. It’s because of Pride that the pro-Palestinian LGBTQ+ people can be as public as they want. And now they’ve tried to stop the very thing that allows them to exist in the first place.

I’d like to pose a question to everyone who tried to stop Pride parades this year: What if this year was the first Pride for an LGBTQ+ youth … someone who wanted to come out and not be harassed by members of our community telling them not to be proud, just like those 450 pieces of legislation around the nation? What if you made them feel shame? What if you forced them to go back in the closet because they felt guilty for celebrating themselves for the first time in their lives? Are you proud of doing that? Is that what you want for our community?

If so, you are no better than those who want us to stay in the closet. You are no better than those who wished we didn’t exist.

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