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How to talk about Pride without missing the point

After more than a year of quarantine, fear and anxiety, people across the country are clamoring for the excitement brought by the parades, marches, parties and events celebrating LGBTQIA+ Pride Month in the post-vaccine era. While joy is important to Pride, celebrated every June, there are serious dangers and threats to the LGBTQIA+ community that must not fall into the shadows.

The first half of 2021 has already set a devastating record for state legislation aimed at restricting the LGBTQIA+ community. State legislators, fueled by fear, hate and disinformation, have introduced more than 250 repressive bills, with over 100 that aim to roll back trans rights. The proposed legislation has largely singled out trans youth, with more than 35 bills limiting their access to gender-affirming medical care and over 69 bills prohibiting their participation in sports consistent with their gender identity. The latter has sparked harmful discussions around collegiate and high school sports across the country, despite a recent poll finding 73% of respondents across the political spectrum support transgender youth participating in sports “in a way that is safe and comfortable for them”. 

Pride Month falls in the midst of these unprecedented attacks, which only serves to emphasize the need to talk about Pride without sanitizing it or missing the point – which is justice and liberation for all LGBTQIA+ people. Here are three ways advocates, organizations and other thought leaders can ensure their messaging truly serves the movement.


1. Look inward.

Pride is about more than making your profile picture a rainbow, or creating a graphic featuring a quote from an LGBTQIA+ activist. It’s about being self-reflective, examining how you and your organization uplift LGBTQIA+ rights and freedoms – not only in the month of June, but all year. More often than not, organizations shy away from the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ issues in their so-called intersectional approach. For 11 months out of the year, they leave the fight for equity and equality to the small number of organizations with an explicit LGBTQIA+ focus, saving any sort of supportive messaging for tweet threads during the first week of June. Performative allyship is not enough. In 2021, when talking about Pride, ask yourself: What sort of long-term commitments am I and my organization making to fight for LGBTQIA+ rights? 


2. Understand the intersectional roots. 

The history of Pride is one of self-love and celebration, yes, but primarily one of protest led by trans and non-binary people of color. Yet, discussions of Pride and LGBTQIA+ issues have become whitewashed and largely exclusionary towards anyone who is not cisgendered. Pride is a time to honor our LGBTQIA+ elders and the movement’s intersectional foundation.

The fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is deeply interconnected with racial, economic and disability justice. This can be found in the uprisings that kicked off the modern movement – at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, San Francisco’s Compton’s Cafeteria and Los Angeles’s Cooper Donuts – and in the incredible work happening today across the fights for liberation and justice, such as the founding of Black Lives Matter by queer Black women. As the activist Achebe Powell says in the 2019 short documentary Stonewall Forever, “My experience as a woman, my experience as a lesbian, my experience as a Black person, become equally important in terms of how we do this work to dismantle the whole house, to bring it all down.”

3. Center structural change.

Equality is about more than just marriage and vague concepts of acceptance. It’s about tearing down oppressive systems and structures so the LGBTQIA+ community can truly thrive. Last year, Pride was heavily influenced by the racial justice uprisings happening throughout the country following the murder of George Floyd. People revisited the heart and initial intent of Pride, honoring it through protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The focus was on upending systemic racism and breaking down societal structures dependent on white supremacy. In 2021, it’s important to maintain this momentum and remain undistracted from attempts by banks, police and corporations to co-opt Pride with self-interested messaging.

An authentic and meaningful approach to messaging around any movement matters, and when it comes to Pride and LGBTQIA+ rights, grounding the discussion in the larger context of civil rights and social justice movements is particularly important. Educate yourself. Take advantage of the many incredible resources available on the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement and the ongoing fight for equality. For example, this June, I will be watching Hulu’s documentary series PRIDE to delve deeper into the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights from the 1950s to today.

Remember, your commitment to furthering justice and equality for all LGBTQIA+ people should not end just because the clock strikes midnight on July 1. An intersectional approach inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community is imperative to crafting messaging that advances equity and justice for issues across the spectrum – from racial justice to access to healthcare, disability rights to equitable education. 


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 10:56 am and is filed under Frame, narrative and message development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.