Every June, I’m reminded of why it’s such a relief to live in a place like Connecticut. The rainbow Pride flag flies over the Capitol in Hartford, our public officials take part in Pride parades, and the law, in contrast to some other parts of the country, protects LGBTQ people instead of silencing or persecuting us.
For the first time ever, a Pride flag was raised at the town hall in my town of Enfield this year. For a town that has really never acknowledged all of the LGBTQ people living here in the past, it’s a welcome change. And maybe it’s just empty symbolism, the very definition of the least our governments can do, but sometimes symbolic changes like this can be the start of a better world.
Still, it’s hard not to look out from the relative safety of Connecticut and wonder just how long all of these good feelings are going to last.
It’s been a bad year for the LGBTQ community in America. From the heinous “Don’t Say Gay” law forbidding discussion of same-sex relationships or trans identities in elementary schools, to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Orwellian decree to crack down on families trying to support their trans children, to a spate of laws aimed at keeping trans girls out of girls’ sports, it very much feels like we’re in the middle of the worst backlash to expanding LGBTQ rights since the 2004 run of state constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage.
Even the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade contains existential threats to the LGBTQ community. The decision in Roe was based on a wide interpretation of the constitutional right to privacy, which in turn has informed decisions on birth control, “sodomy,” and marriage rights. The leaked draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court’s most extreme right-wingers, limits that right in ways that could ultimately be used to even further undermine the right to do with our own bodies as we wish.
That’s the curse of the “traditional” society the right wants; only cisgender, straight, white men get to do what they want with their own bodies. Everyone else, not so much. Women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights are all connected in this way, which is why solidarity and cooperation between all these movements are so important.
Right-wing extremists, especially those who are evangelical Christians, would love nothing better than to shove Queer America back into the closet. In the states that they control, they want to ensure that children don’t get exposed to the idea that there aren’t restrictions on who you love and who you choose to be.
They say they want to keep trans girls out of girls’ sports to ensure some kind of “fair play,” even though this is the very first time they’ve shown any interest in girls’ sports (or fair play) at all. They really just want to punish trans girls for existing. Does the outcome of a track meet mean so much to them that they would willingly exclude people who already face tons of discrimination in their lives?
Of course not. They care about protecting toxic, old-fashioned notions of the purity of womanhood, and keeping anyone they sift into the “boys” category firmly in line with their ideas of masculinity.
It’s just like they don’t really care about parental rights so much as they want to force subjects they don’t like, such as America’s history of racism and LGBTQ rights, out of the classroom. The only parents they believe should have rights are the ones that belong to their group.
Sure, it’s cynical and hypocritical. But they don’t care about that, as long as they get what they want.
We have to push back. We have to keep being loud.
And for those who think that elementary school is too young to start teaching tolerance toward LGBTQ people, let me introduce you to all the boys who knocked me down, spat in my hair, and called me a f*ggot when I was 8. Queer kids know they’re different at a very young age, mostly because our entire society gangs up to tell them so. They deserve to see and hear about people like them in the classroom! They deserve to be taught that it’s okay to be who they are.
Maybe, if we do that, the suicide rate for LGBTQ kids wouldn’t be so high. And that’s what I want most of all. I want those kids to be safe. I want LGBTQ kids to become LGBTQ adults.
That’s what Pride’s all about. It’s a celebration of community, of love and acceptance, but it’s also a joyous, righteous shout: we are still here, and we will not be silent.