A good share of LGBT Pride Month stories and articles begin with mention of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Instead, I want to quote Thomas Jefferson. One of his most famous warnings, is one of my favorites. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Like other civil rights struggles, the LGBT movement came about because of overt oppression and repression by society in general and moralists in particular. At every turn, civil rights gains are accompanied by often violent backlash by opponents. Frequently the opponents accuse the oppressed of being the oppressors.
It’s extremely frustrating to be a member of the gay community in America these days. On one hand, we have our individual stories of happiness and repression that ache to be told. On the other hand, we wonder how much we can express to the majority culture before society burns out and tunes out what we need to communicate. How much longer can we take two steps forward and get pushed one step backward? These aspects have been on my mind as I pondered how to compose my annual Pride Month bluejayblog post.
Like thousands of other people, I cried tears of joy upon hearing about the landmark US Supreme Court rulings regarding same-sex marriage. This ruling was not an isolated advancement that just dropped from the sky. It came about after years and years of work and advocacy, pain and punishment. In that it happened last year, during Pride Month, was further cause for happiness. The happiness has been bittersweet for those of us who live in states where discriminatory marriage laws have not been overturned.
The marriage struggle is just one of many partial victories for the LGBT community. In many areas of North America, there have been momentous gains as the result of arduous work, preceded by untold pain and disappointment. For those advancements, we are very grateful. We want to thank the early pioneers who sometimes made the ultimate sacrifice to help others.
While my brothers and sisters who live in more tolerant States and metropolitan areas celebrate, I hope they remember that the work is far from finished. Those of us who live in places like Nebraska or the Deep South don’t have as much of the share of social acceptance.
There is a generously funded opposition movement that seeks to erase all of the gains that all civil rights movements made during the past century. While some of us enjoy our little Pride Month parties on the LGBT Titanic, we need to beware of the massive icebergs of ignorance and prejudice that loom ahead of us. Without eternal vigilance, our freedoms will go down.
The LGBT civil rights movement is not limited to North America and Europe. The struggle goes on everywhere. At those times when we feel smug and forget to be thankful for what we have in America, we need to remember that the rest of the World is a testing ground for people who aim to crush the life out of LGBT people.
The oppression and violence against gays and lesbians continues unabated in such places as Russia, China, Uganda, Nigeria, and many other nations. If you are gay, perceived of as gay, or “accused” of being gay, you can be incarcerated or killed.
The civil rights struggles of the LGBT community are up against almost impossible odds.
Worldwide, the efforts to counter hate and ignorance have only just begun. Freedom movements are not just passing media events, they are long-term investments of heroic effort and striving by the oppressed and our allies.
There are people who decry the need for LGBT Pride celebrations. Sometimes we hear an opponent call for a straight pride parade. All I can say is that, if you are mainstream heterosexual, please be very grateful that you have no need for straight pride parades.
Each civil rights struggle has had its own version of a “pride” celebration to provide a morale boost for their members. The women’s suffragettes conducted meetings and held parades to bolster women’s rights. The Black Power movement did much the same for people of African heritage. We find the various activists and advocates for other marginalized populations working to claim equality with the majority culture.
Perhaps, someday, there will be no more need of civil rights movements. That will happen when people of all kinds treat each other, simply, as people. These days, that notion seems like a far-off fantasy. So, for the foreseeable future, there will be folks advocating and celebrating equality for all.
There will probably be a real need for Pride Month for years to come.
The Blue Jay of Happiness reminds members of social minorities, that your silence will not protect you.