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Shining Through Love: Reflecting on Pride’s Radical Roots

Hear from UUSC partner the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project as they reflect on justice, human rights, and Pride month.

By UUSC Staff on June 30, 2021

June 28, 1969 was a historic day in LGBTQ+—and American—history as it marked the beginning of the Stonewall Riots, a revolutionary and bold act of resistance by patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Fed up with the rampant abuse they experienced at the hands of the police, several LGBTQ+ people fought back over the course of the next five days, a series of protests and clashes with the police that would go down in history as the start of the modern day LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States.

In 2021, fifty-two years after that seminal event, Pride is celebrated the entire month of June and has become a part of the cultural mainstream with corporations like Bank of America, Bud Light, and Coca-Cola sponsoring parades; social media platforms developing rainbow-colored photo filters; and numerous ceremonies honoring the work of LGBTQ+ nonprofits.

With all of the revelry that comes with Pride, the public often loses sight of the fact that it is rooted in—and a demand for—social change. UUSC partner the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP), is a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ people exercising their right to migrate. Below is an extended excerpt from a statement QDEP released in honor of Pride month.

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If you have been online lately, you’ve probably seen the posts about what and who should or should not be allowed at Pride. As Black and brown and trans and queer immigrants and asylum-seekers, some of whom are fleeing dangerous situations or simply hoping for the freedom that the United States promises, we are all too familiar with this rhetoric. You’ve heard it before—whose story counts, whose lives matter, whose experience is valued, trusted, and protected.

What we are hearing now from our supposed LGBTQ+ siblings and allies, placing limits on our queerness, on our genders and self-expression, goes hand in hand with what we are hearing from supposed democratic leadership, about who should be allowed to live and thrive in this country.

“Pride means being your true and authentic self in all aspects of your life.”

—Juliet, QDEP Member since 2019

The U.S. government continues to uphold imaginary, colonial borders in order to maintain white power and wealth. And that white supremacy and its European notions of heteronormativity demand that queer and trans folks either assimilate or disappear from Pride celebrations that were (and still are) at their core led by Black and brown trans women.

“Pride is a time to honor life and never forget that we queer and trans people are wonderful beings and unrepeatable. The pride of belonging to a group willing to continue shining through love.”

—Geraldine, QDEP Member since 2019

The United States has long plagued our histories, and attempted to divide our communities and erase our cultures (including our many sexualities and genders) through colonization and conversion. They try to dictate our borders, our families, our [romantic partners], even our friends. The States’ continued destruction abroad has also caused many of our community’s forced migration and displacement.

But we will neither assimilate nor disappear. We will gather and build with the same hope and purpose as Marsha P. Johnson, and her ancestors before her, and our elders with her, and our siblings after her. Our pride is in our cultures, our lifestyles, our lovers. Our pride is not just who we love but how we love, how we grow and embrace our communities, how we challenge and support each other, how we experience pleasure and joy. Our pride is in our deep and genuine belief that no one of us is disposable, that we each deserve to live and thrive.

“Pride is an act of hope, kindness, dedication and [the] countless shed of blood to let us [live] free for the future. A memorial celebration to embrace ourselves and show what we are capable of as one! Happy Pride!”

—Isuru, QDEP Member since 2019

It’s not solely that we belong at one event, one time during the year. We deserve to live fully and without shame or fear every damn day, in any way and anywhere we please. June may be a month of celebration, but QDEP’s community is dedicated to celebrating and caring for each other all year round. We are motivated to create the safest and bravest of spaces for each other, where we can welcome our siblings with open arms and celebrate our whole selves in community. We will continue to care and thrive across borders, generations, and genders together — this Pride and everyday thereafter.

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About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

Image Credit: Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

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