Mourning George Floyd in the Month of Pride
by Kira Lingala
As Pride month begins and members of the LGBTQ+ community across the country struggle to find ways to connect in the midst of a public health emergency, black and brown members of our community have been reminded again and again that their bodies and souls are not valued in this country.
From those at the height of political power to dog walkers in Central Park, white racists have displayed their capacity for violence and their indifference to suffering. That reality was already apparent as communities of color have borne the brunt of the COVID19 pandemic. Of the first 100 COVID-related deaths in Chicago, 70 were black.
However, it was the recent killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery that thrust the horrors of American racism squarely in the public eye, once again.
Scenes poured in from protests across the country of anguish, solidarity, and resilience in the face of a police force that appeared emboldened to commit acts of violence, entirely unprovoked, even as they were filmed.
Images like these often confuse and distress those not on the frontlines. Some, from a place of privilege, ask that we stop the protests, stop the discord so that they don't have to see cities burn, and police act as an occupying force. Of course, for black and brown people living in the most distressed neighborhoods and cities, police are always an occupying force and the fire is always raging, even if it can't be seen from white enclaves.
The LOFT, joined by LGBTQ+ organizations across the country, are organizing ways to bring our community together virtually, even in these darkest of times. But as the racial tensions that have been a part of this country since its inception boil over, it is important to look back at the history of these two movements, how they intertwine, and why they must support each other.
These events were not separate, but inextricably linked. Trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson are now rightly recognized as the first to fight back against the police on that fateful night. The crowds singing “We Shall Overcome” during the uprising illustrate the links between the black Civil Rights Movement and the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement.
These connections ran in both directions as some prominent racial justice advocates, like James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, and Audre Lorde, were also members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Famed gay rights activist Frank Kameny drew inspiration from civil rights slogans like Stokely Carmichael’s “Black is Beautiful” to coin the phrase “Gay is Good.” Today, the solidarity between black antiracist activists and LGBTQ+ activists is apparent in the leadership of black queer women like Patrisse Cullors, who helped to found the Black Lives Matter movement.
His death, along with those of so many other Black transgender people, is a testament to the necessity of solidarity at this moment. For those of us who bear the burden of multiple marginalized identities, there is no choice between one cause or the other.
In “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” the queer, black icon Audre Lorde rejected attempts to divide her identity, saying, “I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole… My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all parts of who I am… Only then can I bring myself and my energies as a whole to the service of those struggles.”
Lorde’s words are a guiding light for all of us in this time, regardless of our particular collection of identities. We must draw strength from every part of ourselves if we wish to care for each other and heal amidst a pandemic that still threatens our health. And it is through Lorde’s example of radical multiplicity that we may find a way to celebrate Pride through solidarity.
Pride is for a community so large and multifarious, the acronym describing us usually ends with a plus sign, struggling to contain us in a single word.
We are black trans men gunned down by police, like Tony McDade, and latinx trans women celebrating our community, like Carmen Carrera.
We are gay black men threatened with violence, like Chris Cooper, and gender-fluid South Asians who bravely defy the binary, like Alok Vaid-Menon.
We are the third-gender hijra in India and the trans folx fighting radical TERFs in the UK.
There is too much of us to contain in a word, too much of us to imprison, and far too much of us to snuff out with guns and violence.
This month, we stand with our black brothers and sisters, LGBTQ+ and straight alike, in mourning for those felled by racist violence. We show solidarity, even as some LGBTQ+ folx are racist and some black folx are homophobic, because we see past these divides.
We take pride, not only in our commonality, but in our difference and multiplicity. Some are isolated with families who hate them, some are on the streets without a place to call home, and to them, we say we are your family and we are your home. It is not a tragedy that Pride comes in this moment, but a blessing. So this year, we will not just exclaim Pride, we must live it—through community, through solidarity, through love and caring, and always through loud, proud, queer celebration.
You can find an anti-racist reading list here, and one by queer authors of color here. Here is a list of some of the black transgender people killed this year, followed by another list of black people killed by police since 2014. Neither of these lists is comprehensive.
Next, show you care. Reach out to the black and brown people in your life who are being traumatized by the daily images of violence and hatred. Make sure they are ok and offer them a helping hand.
Finally, it is more vital than ever to support and act. Below, you will find a link to a vetted list of community bail funds across the country, which you can donate to support jailed protesters. You can also donate to The LOFT to help us in supporting our community in this time through programs like PROUDWST Me, specifically designed to improve the lives and health of TGNCNB folx of color.
If you are a person of color, The LOFT has support groups that offer a space to heal and find community with others like you. The LGBTQ+ POC group is open to all people of color in our community, while Westchester, Tu Ambiente is a group specifically for the latinx community.
Kira Lingala (She/Hers/Her) is the Peer Navigator, PROUDWST Me Program. She can be reached at [email protected]
ADDITIONAL RESOURCE LINKS:
- PROUDWST Me program for TGNCNB folx of color
- The LOFT’s LGBTQ+ POC support group
- The LOFT’s Westchester, Tu Ambiente support group for latinx folx
- Donate to The LOFT
- Donate to bail funds for protesters across the country
- HRC-TNGCNB Resource Link