Why we still need Pride Month

Why we still need Pride Month

June is Pride Month and over the last few weeks you might have had people in your life asking why the LGBTQIA2S+ community still celebrate as loudly as we do. This line of questioning often comes from a place of privilege and lack of education, so we at I Am Enough would like to help explain why we still have a ways to go.


Because we have always been here


(Image credit)

With a changing social landscape and the rise of acceptance in some places, LGBTQIA2S+ people have begun to feel more safe living publicly. While for much of human history our lives have been lived in the shadows and our stories have been told only in allegory, we have always been here.

Julius Caesar reportedly had affairs with men where he was the submissive party while Leonardo da Vinci was openly gay and wrote about his attraction towards men. The Greek poet Sappho is the birth mother of the word lesbian, derived from the island of Lesbos, where she lived. We’wha, who lived in a Zuni tribe around 1849 in what is today New Mexico was well known as a Lhamana, the revered title for a Two Spirit person. The term homosexuality was coined as early as 1869 by an Austrian man named Karl Kertbeny and many don’t realize that Berlin in the 1910s was a very gay place to be.

In the 1930s; when the United States entered the Prohibition era, gay men used the underground clubs and speakeasies as an opportunity to express and enjoy themselves. This is where the world saw the rise of drag culture which already had a history of being a commentary on the subversion of gender norms. By 1933, both Lili Elbe and Dora Richter had had some of the world’s first gender confirmation surgeries.

While it may seem like the existence of queer people has only been a recent phenomenon, we can assure you that queer love is as old as love itself.

Because the first Pride was a riot


In the early 20th century, when underground clubs and bathhouses were popular places for queer people to frequent, police raids on these same establishments were common. Through the late 1960s, it was common for police to raid gay establishments simply to destroy LGBTQ2SIA+-friendly spaces. A police raid, conducted by the NYPD in 1969, of the Stonewall Inn is considered to be the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ2SIA+ liberation movement. Patrons and neighbourhood residents fought back that night, throwing objects at officers and stirring an uprising that included everyone from gay men to trans women of color, resulting in four nights of rioting.

A year after the Stonewall Riots, the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March was held in commemoration. Reportedly as many as 5,000 people walked that day, including extraordinary trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, to courageously stand up for the right to exist without fear. This was considered the first Pride parade in the world, which has since encouraged other cities and countries to hold their own

However, Pride was not always so unabashedly celebratory; for a long time, it was a radical assault on mainstream values, a means to defy the belief that homosexuality was a sin, an illness and a crime, that gay people were subhuman. In the 1980s, Pride parades were opportunities to bring attention to the AIDS crisis. In 1981, a raid on a bathhouse in Toronto engendered the same kind of response as the Stonewall Inn and became the city’s catalyst for fierce Pride celebrations. 


Because someone out there still doesn’t feel safe


(Image credit to Sterling Graves)

There are currently only 29 countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Meanwhile, in 12 other countries, queer activity can lead to the death penalty. 

Even in countries where being queer or transgender is not illegal, people within the community can still face persecution and even homicide. For example, in Central America, LGBTQ2SIA+ people face conservative and religious-based discrimination, persecution, and a high risk of homicide. Even in progressive countries, such as Canada and the United States, a homicide perpetrator can still use a “Gay panic” defence, claiming that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains—but excuses—a loss of self-control and the subsequent assault or murder. According to Canada’s Criminal Code, if a defendant can demonstrate that they were provoked, they can have a murder charge reduced to manslaughter, which can come with a much lighter sentence. 

Sadly, 2020 saw at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, the majority of which were Black and Latinx transgender women. Meanwhile, Queer youth continue to contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. In 2020, a poll of over 40,000 young LGBTQ2SIA+ people in the United States found that 40% of them have considered suicide in the past year. 

Many members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community still do not expect to live long lives, as there is still a huge lack of systemic support. In Canada, it is unfortunately all too common for a trans person to be fired - 13% of respondents to the Trans PULSE Survey reported getting fired after revealing their identity. Additionally, only 37% of people surveyed held a full-time job and the average income of the respondents was $15,000 or less per year; adjusting for inflation, this amount is still only $18,142.24, which falls below Canada’s 2015 Official Poverty Line.

What you can do to help

Establishments like The 519 in Toronto are doing hard work to improve the situation for queer people of all ages. During Pride month, the 519 becomes a spot for Pride events while the rest of the year it is a community hub offering support in many forms such as counselling services, coming out groups and much more. As of this month, The 519 will become the beneficiary of a portion of the proceeds of every sale on the I Am Enough shop.

This year, instead of watching the Pride march pass you by, consider supporting an establishment in your community such as your local queer-owned book store or the queer community center closest to you and remember to never give up the fight.

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