While the City of Fort Worth celebrates Gay Pride Week in October — a tradition started in 1982 — throughout Fort Worth, Texas, and the world, June is officially Pride Month. It’s a month-long celebration of the right of people to be themselves and to recognize the LGBTQ community’s contributions to social justice, the arts, politics, and business worldwide. It is also a time to remember how much more work needs to be done before that community is really treated equally. In Peru, trans people are celebrated with parades year-round, but in parts of the Middle East, LGBTQ people are still put to death.
The origins of the celebration of the rainbow flag date back to a 1969 New York City police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The largest gay dancehall in New York, it was raided regularly by the “morals squad” for serving liquor without a license and for permitting intimate gay dancing. But this raid on June 28, 1969, went wrong, and patrons began protesting the police harassment in the streets. The protests continued and swelled for several hours, with protesters battling police, before the police could bring the situation under control. That riot led to the first Gay Pride Parade up New York’s 5th Avenue, and the LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly and proudly to earn equal protection under the law ever since.
Unfortunately, that work is not complete, even here in the United States. The very real fear of a teen being thrown out of his or her family home for admitting to being part of the LGBTQ community is devastating. According to Sharron Herrera, a former member of the United States Air Force and founder of LGBTQ Saves, a nonprofit that provides a safe space for social and personal development in Fort Worth, 40 percent of the people in the LGBTQ community between the ages of 10 and 24 try to commit suicide, and enough succeed to make it the leading cause of death in that age group in the country.
Politically, the community is often shunned as well. Many LGBTQ couples cannot adopt children, and the governors of several states will not enforce laws against Justices of the Peace and others who perform civil marriages who refuse to issue licenses to or perform marriages for the LGBTQ community. And Gov. Greg Abbott is poised to sign a bill into law that will prevent cities from taking “adverse actions” against businesses that have membership in or contribute to “a religious organization.” The bill is dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill because it was written in response to San Antonio’s recent refusal to allow the restaurant chain to open an outlet in the city’s international airport because of the company’s ardent anti-LGBTQ stance.
In the years since the Stonewall Inn riots, great strides have been made in the LGBTQ community, but more is needed. It is long past time that we simply treat people as people, legally, socially, and professionally.