Even if you live under a rock, I’m sure you saw rainbows in commercials, at your favorite coffee shop, maybe even in your favorite pop star’s music video and in parades in communities across the country throughout June. For many, especially those new to this movement, it’s easy to forget that these colorful celebrations are meant to commemorate the Stonewall uprising and the transgender women of color who ignited the modern civil rights movement for LGBTQ+ equality.
So, it’s really… nice… to see PRIDE spirit ignited across the country — in both communities that have celebrated PRIDE for 50 years and in communities that celebrated PRIDE for the first time this year. (Yes, it’s in all caps because we’re that PROUD.)
And yet, in the midst of these celebrations, we find ourselves facing the actualization of a long-term strategy by extremist conservative factions of this country. These anti-trans, anti-queer, anti-black, anti-brown, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist people are ripping the wires out of the machines that are meant to protect us. Meanwhile, we’re diligently distracted by Twitter.
Yes, we should celebrate. But if we are to effectively counter the challenges of the next decade, we must also be just as fed up with the system and committed to liberation as Sylvia, Marsha and the transgender women of color who threw the first bricks of our movement 50 years ago. Here are three things we must commit to doing:
Work hard to know and understand the intricacies and historical trauma experienced by our constituencies and build broad bases of support.
New Mexico is a multicultural state that is very rural, highly religious and ideologically diverse. Often, this recipe is associated with extreme difficulty winning legal protections for queer and trans people. Yet, our legal protections are some of the most progressive, secure and expansive in the country.
That’s because we’ve worked hard to understand the cultural context and historical trauma experienced by communities in our state. We know, for example, that long before western borders were established, two-spirit, queer and trans people were considered sacred by the indigenous nations on whose land the state is built today. Today, as we constantly work to continue learning, we’ve also invested in educating our communities on LGBTQ+ identities and issues to build a broad base of support for systemic change.
This has led to accomplishments like the unanimous passage of the Non-Discrimination Equality Act this year, an update to our Human Rights Act that eliminated a carve-out allowing small businesses to legally discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees. This is a considerable win for our movement, as we believe this is the first time in U.S. history a bill of this kind has unanimously passed both chambers of a state legislature.
Work collaboratively across coalition on policy and politics, taking a wide view and surgical approach to the work.
The Equality movement, rightfully so, has been criticized for focusing on and being coopted by the needs of cisgender white (gay) males. From 2009 to 2013, New Mexico engaged in a statewide campaign for marriage equality, culminating in a ruling from the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of same-gender marriage. We’re all intimately aware that achieving high profile LGBTQ+ legal protections like marriage equality are critical.
But we can’t stop there. We must take a wide view of our work to identify and uproot the systemic ways in which discrimination and oppression are sustained. We must recognize that LGBTQ+ liberation is bound up in the liberation of all oppressed groups and people, expand our view to include policies that affect all of us and engage in the meticulous work of uprooting these systemic, perhaps less obvious, ways in which discriminatory policies are upheld. In New Mexico, we’ve done this by bringing our constituency to advocate for policies like raising the statewide minimum wage, same-day and automated voter registration, access to and the decriminalization of abortion, working to expand/secure inclusive family definition in statute and more.
Be PROUD twelve months of the year, not just one.
Finally, we can’t just celebrate PRIDE for one month each year. If we are to win equality, we must dedicate ourselves to the strategic, hard work year-round — something I’m proud Equality New Mexico has done for the last 25 years. We must stay educated about the issues, elect representatives who will work for our rights and invest in organizations that are effectively working in policy and politics. At this year’s legislative session, we saw the fruits of our year-round dedication with the passage of a suite of LGBTQ+ bills, including the Non-Discrimination Equality Act, the Gender Neutral Restroom Signage Act, the Safe Schools for All Students Act and the Vital Records Modernization Act.
So here’s the bottom line: PRIDE month has ended, but the work is far from over. We’ve taken strides in creating visibility for the community during PRIDE month, but performative, non-reciprocal intersectionality is not enough and, in fact, inflicts harm on the movement for LGBTQ+ liberation. So please stop.
We hope you’ll join us in committing to the next generation of hard, strategic work necessary to achieve lived and legal liberation and dignity for every LGBTQ+ person in every aspect of life. Let’s roll up our rainbow sleeves and get to it, y’all!
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