I’m gay, I’m Black, and I’m still here. Join me in the fight.
By Kenny Palmer, Indivisible Deputy Press Secretary
Today is the last day of Pride Month, and what a Pride Month it has been — the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the continuing devastation of a brutal and unjust war in Ukraine, and the reverberations of mass shootings across the country dominated headlines. We are seeing a degradation of basic rights and comforts that the American people have held sacred for so long.
What does it mean to celebrate Pride in the face of such realities?
As a gay Black man growing up in rural Kentucky and South Carolina, comfort was not a given in my life. One swish, one flourish, one moment of living my truth was enough for people to know that I didn’t belong. That their idea of community didn’t include me.
But their conditioning did.
Let me tell you, to this day I still love a good ol’ boy in a pastel shirt. The classic ideas of rugged beauty still hold me to this day. I won’t lie, I swoon. Maybe it’s a vestige of some burning desire to be a part of a community that would not accept me.
I still remember the fear and shame of walking down the street hand-in-hand with my boyfriend — a mundane act of love and a defiance all wrapped up in one.
But that’s not where I am today.
I went to a Pride celebration this weekend and was overwhelmed by the number of “modern families,” children with two dads or two moms or two parents erasing the binary who proudly proclaimed their love for their child. Straight families were intermixed with the queer crowd; there to show support, or just to have a good time — queer culture, and gay Black culture specifically, finally having gained a foothold in the popular zeitgeist through shows like Pose and Drag Race.
We were free to be. Brilliant, bold, beautiful, irreverent, maybe a little naked, our full selves on display in defiance of the fear and shame we once felt. Gay is mainstream now. Obergefell is law. We have made it, honey.
But, that is only part of the story. While tragedies like Roe, Ukraine, and mass shootings impact all Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans are dealing with specific additional compounding oppressions:
- 2021 was the deadliest year on record for trans people. Trans people are over four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than cis people. The majority of that violence is inflicted on Black and Brown trans bodies. While violence on the whole in American society has been in decline, violence against trans people is only increasing. To make matters worse, Trans/Gay panic defense is still a valid legal strategy across much of the country.
- As of 2021, 35 states have laws that criminalize HIV exposure with several of those states criminalizing behaviors that pose a negligible risk for HIV transmission. An HIV diagnosis is no longer associated with the devastating outcomes we still associate with the AIDS crisis of the 80s. Even as we are on the edge of vaccine breakthroughs and while antiretroviral drugs become more effective every year, our legal system is still criminalizing a virus in order to disproprtionately target gay people in a vestige of unfounded fear and hate.
- Over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been proposed in 2022 alone. Whether stopping trans athletes from competing in sports, criminalizing medical transition, or blocking any mention of LGBTQ+ existence from schools, legislatures across the country are proposing anti-LGBTQ+ bills at terrifying rates. With a Supreme Court that is nakedly Republican, where Justice Clarence Thomas recently called into question the lawfulness of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, more bills are undoubtedly on their way.
- 31 men were arrested attempting to start a riot at Idaho Pride. In an offshoot of groups that participated in the now infamous 2017 Charlottesville, VA Unite the Right rally, members of Patriot Front piled in a U-Haul in matching outfits and tactical gear planning to cause a violent riot at Idaho Pride.
Progress has been made for LGBTQ+ people in this country but we are nowhere near finished (and, in some cases, we are moving backwards). The examples above are just a few ways in which living as a gay Black man means I am still a target. But we move forward.
This was the first Pride on a large scale in many places since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was a necessary release of joy and an expression of the pent-up angst many of us have been feeling — for LGBTQ+ Americans, we finally formed communities of our own only to have them taken away by another deadly virus taking lives, this time from more than our community.
This Pride was joyous and beautiful and debaucherous and brilliant and every bit the massive party we needed. (There’s probably a video of me singing Whitney Houston somewhere…it was a time!)
But, we never forget that Pride has always been a celebration in spite of the world telling us that we did not belong. We dance and sing and march and embrace to remind the world that no matter how many times it tries to knock us down, we are still here. You can not erase us.
The world has changed a lot since I was a little boy. I no longer feel shame walking down the street holding hands with my boyfriend (I might just give him a little kiss too). But what has not changed is the fear, the constant threat looming over LGBTQ+ people’s lives. Whether it’s physical violence or legislative oppression, we are still being shown that we do not belong.
If you want to take a step towards reminding us that we do:
- Click here to donate to the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network. Nearly half of queer youth seriously consider suicide. LGBTQ+ Americans are less likely than cis, straight Americans. And Black and Brown Americans are less likely to have insurance than their White counterparts. Make a donation today to make a difference in a LGBTQ+ person’s future.
- Click here to donate to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF). Transgender and gender non-conforming Americans face disproportionate levels of harassment and discrimination with their rates of being unsheltered increasing by up to 80% from 2017–2019. TLDEF works to increase trans rights through the court system in key areas like employment, health care, education, and public accommodations.
- Click here if you’re looking for some Indivisible Pride merch. Show your pride! Wear it loud. All proceeds go to the two aforementioned funds.
I’m gay. I’m Black. I’m still here. And, I’m proud. That won’t end when the calendar turns tomorrow and neither will my fight for equality. I hope you’ll join me.