Ade hosts another special episode, this time centered around pride and the origins of Pride Month! She also talks about the infamous Stonewall riots and the series of events they kicked off that have brought us to this point in time.
Ade: What’s up, y’all? It’s Ade, and you’re listening to Living Corporate. So today is gonna be another solo run with just me, so welcome. Strap in. Let’s have a quick conversation about Pride Month. So as many of you may know, I identify as a member of the LGBTQI community. I’ve always used the label queer and only recently started to embrace the label of lesbian, which that’s gonna be another talking point a little bit later on, the reclamation of the term queer, but for those of you who celebrate, Happy Pride Month. For those of you who do not celebrate, Happy Pride Month. I’ma go and be prideful anyway. So for those of you who don’t know, June is Pride Month. It is the month during which members of the LGBTQIA community celebrate history, culture, openness, freedom. There’s so much more to it, but this year is actually the fifth year–the fiftieth year anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, which, like, kicked off a series of events that have brought us to this point in time. I’m not gonna do a full historical rundown. I do think that it’s important that you know what the Stonewall Riot was, who certain figures were, so I’m going to do a quick exposition of that history, and I’ll mention some names, and I strongly encourage you to go look into their stories and the impact that they had. So the Stonewall Riot was essentially this mini-revolution back in the ’60s–and well before then, but we’re speaking at this point about 1969. At this point, police officers used to go into bars where people who were suspected of being in the community were, and they would go in and essentially conduct raids. They would assault people, round them up, take ’em to jail, physically assault and molest them. If they saw people who were dressed in ways that they felt were not appropriate for their gender they would actually physically strip search them in ways that were humiliating and dehumanizing, and intentionally so. So in 1969, the club at the time, it was called the Stonewall Inn, and it was owned by a mafia family. So in general they would get tips before people–before the police would come, and so they’d be able to, like, disperse the crowd in order to minimize fallout and damage to people inside, but on this particular day they did not get–they did not get that heads-up, and so, you know, police officers came and did their fascist thing, and they ran in and were rounding people up, and at some point–historians differ on what precisely happened, but someone threw a brick. So some people say that that was Marsha P. Johnson, and some people say that it was Sylvia Rivera. Others, you know, aren’t–don’t necessarily claim to know who the first person was, but somebody threw a brick, and it started this chain reaction of people fighting back. And so that’s the first point that I want you to take away, that, you know, in 2019 or in 2018 or whatever pride parade you may be exposed to, you may understand pride as sort of this, like, party and this sort of hedonistic celebration of life, which it is sometimes, but I also never want it to be lost that resistance is at the core of Pride Month, that pride was born from a place of resistance and subversion. I mean, think about it. These are people who were forced out of public spaces, who legislation essentially rid them of all of their human rights. They could be picked up and humiliated and debased for no reason other than they were different than others and they stood up and said, “You know what? Enough is enough. You will respect my humanity. Period. I’m not having it.” And I want to make the point that regardless of what you think or what you feel, what your own personal perception of what the LGBTQIA community or is not, people being different from you is not a sufficient condition for you to rid them of their human rights. Period. There is not–there has never been an argument that held water for me, even before I came out, that made sense as to why it is permissible, it is legally permissible, to legally discriminate against any group of people. So let that be that. So since then, after, you know, this very revolutionary period, the community went through periods of growth, of advocacy, of community building, particularly during the AIDS crisis of the ’80s and ’90s in which pride, again, became a celebration of life. It became resistance, and the entire community just refused to be, you know, subjected to cruelty. Like, “No. We are human beings, and we will have our human rights.” Like, having an entire community just refusing to be bound in situations in which people are literally being, like, put in jail for just being in love with someone, or Matthew Shepard–people just being murdered for the way that they exist in and of itself. To me, there is no–there is no better way to explain what pride means to me and why pride matters than to remember that there were people then who looked the entire world in the eye and refused to be ashamed, and there’s no reason–no better reason now for why pride matters than the fact that trans women as a whole have an average lifespan of 35 years. In 2019 alone, I believe the count so far is seven trans women have been murdered. That may not sound like a lot to you, especially if you’re in a high crime rate city, but imagine that you are such a small percentage of the population and people constantly murder you. And that’s not even the daily assault and harassment and the fact that there’s no legal protection for your rights, whether it is in the workplace or for your housing security. That leads to an incredible amount of vulnerability and housing insecurity, and choosing to wake up every day and be nothing less than your authentic self requires a level of bravery. That’s why pride matters to me. So the other thing that I want to talk about–I was saying earlier about reclaiming the term queer. So in the past, queer had very much been used–and it’s still used to this day–as a slur against people in the LGBTQIA community. It’s used particularly against masculine-presenting people as a slur, it’s a derogatory term, but more recently–and I think spoke about this last year if y’all remember that episode. More recently it has been reclaimed by members of the community who are essentially saying, like, “Hey, in the same way that other communities have reclaimed words that have been used to harm and abuse–” Like, okay, queer means weird. That’s fine. Like, I’m perfectly fine with existing outside of hetero-normative norms. I’m perfectly okay with not obeying the terms of the binary. All of that aside, that does not make me any less human or any less worthy of love and respect and a fulfilling life, and that’s my understanding of it. If anybody else has a different interpretation of that that does not align or anything like that, we’d love to hear from you about how you feel about that. I noticed recently that there’s been more and more of a pushback against that term in particular, and my company was hosting a Lunch and Learn about pride in particular, and an older woman was very, very–like, she had a visceral reaction to it, and it might be, like, a generational divide thing, because I recognize that millennials and younger have a different relationship with queerness, due largely to the work of those who have gone before us, but millennials and younger just have lived–have not lived in a world that is that viscerally hateful, right? Yes, there is a lot of visceral hatred, right? Like, I’m not minimizing or even justifying the vitriol. I am saying though that 2019 is not 1969, and so it’s understandable that we have different contexts, the same way that many older black people do not understand and fervently disagree with the reclamation of the N word. I can understand why folks do not understand the reclamation of the term queer. Yeah, I just want to talk through and maybe explore a little bit further what that looks like and what consensus might be around that in the community. And it might just be that there’s no consensus, but I am interested in what that conversation looks like. Okay, so I know I’ve mentioned Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, but it really would behoove you just to be a well-educated person, have a well-rounded understanding of American history. Please look into those two women, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. They, I think, define for me what it means to be an elder in your community, and just kind of extrapolating into corporate spaces–Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera [?], who had very little in the way of resources, and they still found ways to advocate for and support and protect their community. They created housing for young trans youth. LGBTQ youth have extremely higher rates of homelessness, of depression, of suicide, of drug addiction, largely due to the fact that often times coming out means that you are put out of your home, you are ostracized, you are–sometimes it’s not even coming out. Sometimes it’s just your mere existence in spaces that were not meant for you, meaning that you automatically have these poor markers for your general–your general life expectancy and all of these other things. Like, young LGBTQ youth, after being put out, often have less access to shelters. If they’re trans, they turn in high rates to sex work as a means to support themselves, all of which is not beneficial for young minds trying to just find their way. I mean, imagine hitting puberty and also trying to navigate where to sleep and what you’re gonna eat in the next day or two. It’s difficult. That’s why pride matters. Pride to me is about community. There is no better story of fictive kinship and what it means to truly draw your community around you and meet people out of a place of love and compassion than the LGBTQ community. I think that if you explore stories of lesbian den mothers who would, you know, take over the task of caring for sick and dying gay men in the ’80s and ’90s when their own families abandoned them and when care was spotty at best in these hospitals. For me, it truly redefines what love is. Community and family [during?] pride is an incredibly special feeling. I think that–and this may be speaking for myself, although I do suspect that this is a shared sentiment across the community. I think that finding yourself in spaces where you’re not defined by being in this community, it’s just “I exist and I’m valid, and look at all the ways in which I can have fun–” It’s a powerful feeling, because human beings were not meant to live in isolation, and it can be incredibly isolating when you’re the only person in the office using the term “partner” instead of husband or wife or you’re the only person in the office whose pronouns are not respected, or you transition in the office and people refuse to use–or they continue to use your dead name. All of those things can feel incredibly isolating and dehumanizing. Pride matters because it is a space in which you can be validated without even thinking about it. Again, incredibly special feeling. So I told you all of the reasons that pride matters, particularly to me. What are the ways in which you can celebrate pride, even if you are not in the LGBTQIA community? I realize now I’ve been using LGBTQIA and not said anything about what that means. For those who don’t know, LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. It is an umbrella term that tries to encapsulate the entire spectrum of folks who are gender-nonconforming, people with diverse sexual orientations, but it is of course not all-encompassing. The umbrella is wide. So what are the ways in which you can help? So of course you can donate. You can find small organizations in your communities that are working to support, especially the youth around you. Providing them with mental health care, with job training, with access to shelters, and maybe just even a safe space. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, Smile, the D.C. Center, are both great organizations where you can donate money, and your money goes directly to supporting kids or Smile in general. Works with LGBTQIA youth, and the D.C. Center works at large, but they especially have a program for asylum seekers, which is dope. Another thing you can do with these organizations is volunteer your time. Whitman-Walker in D.C. is always taking volunteers to, you know, create bagged lunches, to come volunteer your time, to work with people. I mentioned Smile earlier. I mentioned D.C Center earlier. All of these spaces–this is just for if you’re in the DMV area. I can’t imagine the gamut of organizations out there doing good work. Volunteer some of your time. Take, you know, an hour out of your month to just spend time with people. It’s well worth it. You get to meet new people and truly positively effect the life of others, and if you can’t do that, you can call your state and local officials. Advocate on behalf of legislation that supports the LGBTQIA community. The Equality Act passed the House earlier this year. I don’t know if it’s gonna pass the Senate. God willing the rain–I don’t even know how that saying goes. I think it’s “God willing the rain don’t come,” or it’s “God willing the sun don’t shine.” Someone will correct me. Help me with this, y’all. Anyway, support by, you know, calling into your state senators, your local officials, making sure that they know that you are a voter and you care about the rights of the LGBTQIA community, because believe it or not, our rights are still being voted on. Like I said earlier, in something like 29, 30 states, there is zero protection for housing security, for job security. Like, you can legally discriminate against people for their gender performance and their sexual orientation. That’s a legal thing. Like, if I got married today and I wanted to put my wife on my insurance, it’s entirely feasible that my employer could fire me for that. I mean, of course they’re not gonna say “We fired you for this,” but… I mean… yeah. Another thing you can do, those of you who are in larger companies–well, not even larger, mid-sized companies–you can encourage your company to host workshops and events and also get your company to meaningfully support some of those organizations that you find in your–in your own neighborhoods. If you find yourself donating your money to an organization near you, challenge your company, your boss, your leadership, to match your donation to that organization or to sponsor that donation for three months, six months, a year. You know, get your company to put their money where their mouth is, to affirm the life of or the lives of people who need support now more than ever, particularly in this climate. So I’ve been going for a little while now, and I just want to wrap up–I just want to wrap up this conversation by saying two things. One, pride matters because in June 2016 someone walked into a club full of gay people, queer people, lesbians, trans women, bi folks, during Pride Month, at a point in which the club would be full and people would be married and hearts would be joyous in Miami, one of the best gay clubs in town. He walked in there and shot the club up, and I mean that in the least complimentary way possible. His homophobia and his transphobia walked him in there, and he shot an entire club full of people who were just trying to celebrate life. In the aftermath of that rampage, 50 people were killed. Over 50 more were injured, and many people followed that incident by victim blaming, by saying “This is what you get for being different.” Remember that pride started in Stonewall with the throwing of a brick. Remember that pride is subversive. It is revolutionary. It is refusing to forget, and it is refusing to break. Happy Pride.