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Pride was a Riot—and Our Work isn't Done

Pride was a Riot—and Our Work isn't Done

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free,” said Emma Lazarus. The privileged must fight for the freedom of all in order to experience true and equitable freedom. Those who have gained LGBTQI2S rights cannot rest while Black people, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and poor people still struggle. The work is not done for those of us who now have privilege despite our gender and sexual orientation. White people specifically need to awaken from their privileged slumber to continue the fight; demanding racial justice, amplifying oppressed voices, and standing beside those who do not have the privilege of ignoring the issues.  

As it is Pride month again, it's important to remember that this time of celebration comes from much blood (literally), sweat, and tears. Pride was born in 1969 out of a riot, led by Black trans women who endured discrimination and violence at the hands of the police based not only on their sexual orientation but also racism and transphobia. They had enough of the police raids and brutality and decided to fight back. 

Pride month has evolved as the fight for human rights for queer and trans people has progressed. Despite partial decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969 in Canada, raids of bathhouses and violence against queer and trans people continued across the country. In Toronto, “Operation Soap” took place in the 1980s—police committed acts of violence against members of the queer community in bathhouses and then arrested and charged them. In the late 1990s, police raided the Pussy Palace, the Bijou, and the Barn, all queer spaces. Little Sisters Bookstore in Vancouver and Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto suffered raids and seizures of materials deemed “obscene” by police and customs officials in the 1980s and 90s. Despite advancements in the law, LGBTQI2S people still suffer systemic and overt discrimination and violence for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The impacts are felt in areas of access to housing, employment, financial resources, education, interpersonal relationships, and community acceptance, as well as basic physical and emotional safety. These are areas of relative privilege for many heterosexual people.

Now, in 2020, many white, cisgender queers in particular enjoy Pride month as a time to rejoice in the freedoms gained since Stonewall. It's a time to celebrate and enjoy being around similar people and to be able to be oneself without discrimination. However, this is not the case for all members of the community. Police brutality and violence that queers as a whole used to endure continues against Black people. While white queers can enjoy relative privileges of peace and freedom, Black and Indigenous folks as well as other People of Colour are still enduring racism and oppression based on the colour of their skin. Queers can sometimes “pass” for straight. There is no passing for Black folks. It can be dangerous to go outside as it was for Ahmaud Arbery or even to sleep inside as Breonna Taylor did. Any police interaction can escalate as it did for George Floyd. This violence against the Black community persists while violence by police towards the LGBTQI2S community as a whole has been greatly reduced. And the negative impacts of systemic and overt oppression when it comes to accessing the resources mentioned above persist even more for Black people. 

As an organization, Good For Her has always celebrated Pride, but the events of 2020 have shown us that we need to do more to stand up for racial justice. Black queer and trans folks in particular, but Black people in general, still face incredible barriers. Rather than celebrating the gains made by the LGBTQI2S community, our focus is to do what we can to support and stand with those who are still enduring police violence and systemic and overt racism. We have taken the HelloSeven Small Business Pledge to: 

  1. Name white supremacy and the impact of racism on both our personal and professional lives. 
  2. Engage in anti-racist education for all members of our team. 
  3. Commit to open-conflict and allow discomfort when discussing racism. 
  4. Invest a portion of our monthly company budget to the Black community.
  5. Express our sincere, long-term commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization.

This is the time for all of us non-Black and Indigenous folks—not just now but regularly—to acknowledge our privilege, celebrate gains, support Black voices, organizations and businesses, educate ourselves on the issues, commit to action, acknowledge mistakes made and apologize for harm done—including inaction. Pride was born out of a fight for human rights. The fight has not yet been won and there is still work to be done.