Pride season is upon us, and before the floats line up and the DJs plug in, there’s a chance to reflect on where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
It’s a chance to look back at how far we’ve come, when only four years ago, same-sex marriage became the law of the land in America. Or nineteen years ago, when Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples, charting the then-uncertain course for marriage equality. Thirty-seven years ago — Wisconsin was the first state in the US to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Forty-one years ago Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man to be elected into political office in California. Forty-six years ago the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
Go back fifty years, when police carried out a bigoted and all-too-common raid in the wee hours of a hot summer night at a bar in New York City’s West Village frequented by queers–many of whom were transfolk and POC–the Stonewall Inn. A riot broke out, and while it was by no means the first act of queer resistance to direct oppression, the momentum of that conflict vibrates through every step forward the LGBTQ community has taken. It vibrates through us still today.
When the parades do kick off, music blaring, Pride becomes a chance to feel the current of the past and embrace the present moment with joy, choosing not to be robbed of life’s pleasures by having touched adversity. To taste the sweetest fruits this earthly existence bears without shame. To show the world that we will not return to the darkness.
And it’s a chance to hold that joy while still staring down the barrel of fights yet to be won, knowing the road is never easy but always navigable together. Because the fight is never over. We must protect our trans brother and sisters, who are demeaned, harassed and murdered at unconscionable rates; we must protect our queer youth and ensure no child is subjected to harmful conversion therapy; we must challenge human rights abuses against LGBTQ people around this ever-shrinking world; and we must practice love and acceptance in our own ranks even when conflict arises.
With that spirit in mind and to mark 50 years of remarkable advancements since Stonewall, Queerty will honor 50 trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance, and dignity for all queer people.
From politicians to artists, activists to authors, Pride50 is composed of people who not only affect real change outside of our community but also challenge it from within to inspire growth and evolution from all angles.
And that is truly something to be proud of.
Beginning now through the end of June, Queerty will release 50 profiles celebrating these remarkable individuals.
Photo: Marsha P. Thompson and Sylvia Rivera, who were present at the Stonewall uprising who also started an organization called STAR, which stood for Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and founded the STAR House for young drag queens and transwomen, hustling in the streets so their “children” would not have to.