To be queer in America is complicated, especially in our current political climate. This year saw a record number of anti-LGBTQ+, specifically anti-transgender, bills introduced in state legislatures, but also brought the passing of the respect for marriage act, which codified same-sex marriage. Anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are on the rise, with groups such as the proud boys and other far-right militias leading this charge. Politicians as well have become less reticent about their beliefs, especially when it comes to queer youth. Harmful ideas and rhetoric about the LGBTQ+ community are becoming rapidly normalized, especially among young people on social media. At the same time, the resistance to this rising hate is significant. This past year queer people across the country have sent one message loud and clear: We are not going anywhere. Through protests and political action, the LGBTQ+ community has shown that they refuse to return to an age of silence and fear, despite the attacks constantly being launched against them.
In the face of uncertainty about their future in the US, queer people have refused to roll over and accept hate; a large part of this has simply been showing up and making their voices heard. In Montana, for example, 35 year old transgender representative Zooey Zephyr was banned from the house floor after telling other lawmakers that a proposed bill which would restrict gender-affirming care for transgender youth was murderous. Following this, there was an outpouring of support for the representative, and a number of Montanans showed up to the house floor at the next meeting demanding that she be allowed back on the floor. And in Tennessee, where drag has been banned in public places, over 500 people have shown up to protest the anti-LGBTQ+ law.
But despite these displays of support for the queer community and the many lawmakers, celebrities, politicians, and more that have denounced homophobia and transphobia, the attacks on the community are having grave impacts on young people who identify as LGBTQ+. The Trevor Project recently released a study showing that bills attacking the lives of queer youth have directly contributed to higher suicide rates among those same populations.
In recent years pride month has become a safe haven for self expression for people of all identities, but that has come at a price. It has been commercialized by corporate America and lost its meaning and historical significance for many people who just treat it as a party. This year pride month is not just a celebration and to treat it as such would display a grave lack of awareness for what is going on in this country right now. Pride means something very different now that it is under attack, and yet what that is differs from person to person.
For one Northwest student, pride month means “respecting people for who they are and stepping up for people who are being targeted or marginalized.” For another, pride month is “a time to reflect on both forward and backward equality and liberation. A time to honor the ancestors of the gay liberation movement.” They went on to say that in light of recent events pride also means “iteratively showing up as my full self even if it isn’t accepted or understood by others.”
This pride month it will be especially important for allies to support members of the LGBTQ+ community. One Northwest student highlighted this, saying “due to recent political events, allyship is even more important to making others feel safe and protecting rights that they have earned (such as marriage) and continuing to fight for access to things like healthcare.” One member of the Northwest faculty said that “more than ever given the anti-trans (specifically) and anti-LGBTQ (generally) rhetoric infecting current political discourse, now is the most important time in my lifetime to stand for inclusion and celebration, and against hate,” adding that “the Stonewall Riots happened during my lifetime. We can’t go back, we must always fight to go forward. Yes, recent political events are trying to take us back, and we must resist, harder than ever.” Many other members of the Northwest community also felt that now especially it is important to fight against hate.
Queer visibility within our school community is very important. One student said that during pride month we should make sure that there are “clear, strong voices of support of the community in the face of major ongoing opposition and hate.” Another student spoke to the role they feel they have as an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, saying, “queer pride is something to embrace, nurture, and protect. It’s part of my identity and I feel a responsibility to help and lift up others in the community who may be struggling more than I am. A duty to protect trans rights now and always!!!”
Protecting and uplifting transgender members of the queer community was a common theme when people spoke about what pride means in 2023. Some said that they feel a need to actively fight transphobia by protesting and writing letters to lawmakers. Others took a more personal stance, saying that they are checking in with people close to them who are transgender and trying to make Northwest an even safer space. One student noted that they are “very concerned for the rights of trans members and people transitioning as well as the rights of all to have access to accurate and appropriate information.” Another said that they are especially focused on trans inclusivity and safety right now.
It is incredibly difficult to know how to find the right balance between celebrating pride joyfully and freely while also not turning away from the transgender community at a time when they are under attack. However, just by showing up and being wholly and authentically ourselves we are making a greater impact than we may realize. Members of the queer community know how important representation and visibility is, and more significantly what a lack of both of those things can do. As one faculty member said, “pride month is important not only to combat bigotry, but also to combat self-hate among the LGBTQ+ Community, especially the youth. People need to see themselves being celebrated, not castigated.” Another member of the faculty said that “Queer student visibility at NWS is tremendously important. Kudos to all of the kids in Q Club who are both comfortable with their sexuality and courageous enough to be open about it!”
Pride is a celebration of the struggles and fights it took us to get where we are today. It is a time to thank our queer ancestors for their bravery, for their grit. It is a time to educate ourselves and the people around us. Queer history is not taught at Northwest but it is so important. I cannot emphasize this enough. Stonewall is not the only significant event in the history of queer people in the US. Our history is woven into the fabric of the country yet it is still ignored.
Pride is a time to look to the future, however uncertain and scary it may be. We cannot lose hope. We cannot lose sight of a future in which we do not have to hide or fight for our right to simply exist. It has never been easy to be queer in America. At times it is demoralizing, draining, or even painful. But it is also so beautiful. It is invigorating and powerful and so much more than can be put into words. That is what pride month is about; the intersection of all of the experiences and identities that have brought us together and to where we are today, and to those that will lead us into the future.