The first Gay Pride Parade took place in 1970 in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall (“Riots”) Resistance, the birth of the gay rights movement. I attended the first Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, which occurred in 1972. It was a fun event celebrating who we were as a community when we began saying “no more” to being stigmatized for being ourselves. In 1972 politicians in so-called liberal San Francisco steered clear of the parade. Today across the country politicians run to be included in Pride events and to campaign for our votes. Over time, as a culture, we have evolved and gained some rights, including gay marriage. Still those most impacted by stigma are the very folks who started the movement at Stonewall: queer people of color. Our parades have turned into parties and advertisements and political campaigning; for the most part, huge celebrations in many cities in the US.
Our getREAL Initiative has been working to improve the lives of LGBT children and youth involved with the child welfare system. Those youth overrepresented in and most negatively impacted by the system are LGBTQ youth of color. Through work in California and Allegheny County, PA we hope to demonstrate ways in which systems can do better for these young people. Through the network we have more than 80 child welfare public system, non-profit and advocacy groups and others; our goal is to provide resources and tools to support their work and ensure that the young people they work with are better served. Through our youth organizing work we aim to strengthen the Ballroom Scene through the newly developed Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network (kbcan.org). The network provides the alternatives that youth of color throughout the country have created to get the support they need which our public systems have failed to do.
And now we at CSSP stand ready to work with our colleagues across the country to resist the movement occurring at the state and federal level to push back the progress we have made over the past years. The use of religious exemptions to allow discrimination by agencies receiving government funds is but a step among many occurring right now. This PRIDE month needs to be one that is a call to action to defend and protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. We at CSSP are committed to doing our small part to ensure that our work is focused on mitigating the impact of efforts that will undermine our rights and the progress we have made. I remain committed to the resistance—both personally and professionally. I ask that all of you doing this valuable work also join me in that commitment. Join us in commemorating Stonewall this PRIDE month as we enter the next phase of the movement.
Bill Bettencourt is a senior fellow at CSSP.