After the death of George Floyd by the hands of police brutality and the video of his death circulating around media, a series of protests erupted throughout the United States and, eventually, cities in countries half way around the world. It seems apparent that the frustration boiling under the surface of America’s faux face of freedom and equality while ignoring its hypocritical and oppressive history has finally taken to the streets at a full boil. Still, that frustration and anger must, of course, be directed somewhere so things may change. Many people will be asking, how can I get involved? How can I help?
The LGBTQ+ community this month is especially at an interesting crossroad in history. With the pandemic cancelling in-person Pride events all over the world and the Black Lives Matter movement empowering millions all over the world, it might seem unfitting to celebrate Pride. But many, including myself, think quite the contrary. In fact, it’s possibly one of the best times to celebrate Pride, the true spirit of Pride, by supporting our black queer brothers and sisters and standing against an unjust system. After all, it’s because of a black, trans woman, Marsha B. Johnson, who threw the first stone at Stonewall, inciting the famous Stonewall riots that kicked off a global conversation for gay rights. To go even further, we can celebrate the true spirit of Pride this year through virtual events without major corporations (who largely have been complicit in the oppression of minority communities and have ignored such a history at the convenience of profiting off Pride), and really celebrating the small nonprofits and individuals who are battling for LGBTQ+ rights every day of the year, 24/7, and not just one month of the 12. Netflix is currently streaming the documentary about the life of Martha Johnson.
So where can you direct your energy during this Pride month? Well, It’s simpler than you think. One way of showing solidarity with our Black queer brothers and sisters is attending a protest near you. There you can feel the energy, feel the power of evoking the name of George Floyd and those who have been oppressed by a long-standing system of racism and oppression. My sister recently attended a protest on Staten Island, the predominantly conservative borough of New York City. When she came back she advised everyone to go to the protest, not because it was life changing for her. Not in the way white people attend mission trips and position themselves as savior complexes. No, the way she explained it was different. She noted how it was different because you’re listening to black voices, black experiences, directly from them, and listening to experiences you may not have experienced personally. More importantly you’re sitting with the discomfort of your whiteness, how you might be complicit in systemic racism and privileging from it. As many have said, just because you don’t see there’s a problem, or experience it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
As Lil Naz X said on Twitter:
American and British Drag Race royalty have joined forced to against police brutality in a five-minute video featuring the likes of Heidi N Closet, Honey Mahogany, Kenya Michaels, Jinkx Monsoon, Raven, Jujubee, Gia Gunn, Gigi Goode, Bendelacreme, The Vixen and many other queens were joined by Drag Race UK’s Cheryl Hole, Divina de Campo, Blu Hydrangea and Crystal.
“It’s time to stop being complicit,” they say.
“It’s time to stand up, it’s time to speak out, it’s time to do the work.
“We can’t continue to ignore the beliefs, the behaviors, the systems and policies that continue to allow Black people to be murdered in this country,” says Honey.
“No one is born hating someone, no one is born discriminating against someone, no one is born racist. It is taught and it is a product of your environment,” says Heidi.
And while he was talking about celebrities, the every day person could apply it to themselves. Just because you’re in a position of privilege where you don’t experience injustices by the system does not mean that those injustices don’t exist. This is especially true for the LGBTQ+ community today, who often forget the sacrifices of trans women of color for many of the rights we have today.
If you’re either worried about covid-19, or don’t fair very well in crowds, you can always get involved by making donations. There are plenty of places in need of financial support.
One such place you can donate is Lambda Literary. Lambda literary is a nonprofit organization that focuses on publishing many LGBTQ+ writers through all sorts of genres, but they released a Statement of Solidarity:
“We mourn the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless black people who have been unjustly murdered by police and white supremacist violence. We condemn the murder of Nina Pop who was a victim of transphobic violence. We stand in solidarity with everyone who is demanding justice for their wrongful deaths.
We also grieve for those lost in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black communities. From state sanctioned violence to COVID-19, the world is once again bearing witness to how Black people are fighting to survive biased systems in health care, justice, education, and media. "
Lambda Literary commits to expanding our Board of Directors by at least four board members who are queer / Trans people of color, at least two of whom are Black.
We commit to enacting anti-racist principles in our hiring practices, including mandating that at least half of our Retreat faculty, other paid teaching artists, and performers involved in our programs are people of color.
We commit to work with POC-led organizations to create paid publishing and performance opportunities for Black queer and Trans writers, staging one event a season to that end.
We commit to using our platforms to amplify Black LGBTQ voices and decenter cis and white narratives.
We recognize that while social justice has always been core to Lambda Literary’s programs, we must do more to build and share a space of true care, advocacy, and equity.
We recognize the role silence plays in upholding systems of oppression, and the power of language in advancing justice. As an LGBTQ literary arts organization, Lambda Literary has a responsibility to speak out against the violence that is continuously being enacted upon Black communities, especially our Black queer and Trans siblings.”
Recently Lambda Literary has fallen on hard financial times due to the pandemic and being unable to organize and recruit new members. You can donate here.
These are only a few of the many places you can donate. Remember, just because you have the privilege of being accepted in your community does not mean that everyone has those same privileges. Just because we enjoy rights today, thanks to black trans women and trans women of color, does not mean there isn’t still work to be done. The work will never be over, so long as there are people coopting and disenfranchising the experiences of minorities all over the world. So get to work.