Pride is more than a celebration — it's a fight
As Pride Month kicks off, it's important to remember that the movement for equal rights is an uphill battle. While it may be a time to celebrate progress, it should also ready us for the fights ahead.
At around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, two men — one with a megaphone, the other holding a large sign with the phrase “God hates sinners” — walked the sidewalks of Bristol, Pennsylvania.
In the typically quiet Bucks County town 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, the scene harkened to my college days when a preacher would yell biblical platitudes at droves of students who were more concerned with getting off class and getting drunk.
That night, though, Bristol was a microcosm of a nationwide movement celebrating the LGTBQ+ population and demanding equal rights.
As pride flags on local businesses gently swayed in the breeze caused by the town’s proximity to the Delaware River, the two men’s words encapsulated a growing sense of hate for the gay and transgender community.
The men spoke mostly about the consequences of the community’s actions with disgust.
“That’s the worst thing about Hell,” the man with the megaphone said. “That’s the worst thing about the lake of fire. It strays from the one who made you.”
Along with more vulgar comments, their underlying message became clear: Members of the LGBTQ+ community are subhuman sinners.
And as such, members of the community are reminded once again they don’t receive equal treatment in the U.S.
That’s especially true in Florida, as trans residents of all ages recently discovered as Pride Month began.
It came to light over the weekend that legislation signed last month by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a presidential candidate, does more than just ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
The much-criticized legislation also makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for adults to receive care, the Associated Press reported.
Two aspects of the law are at play. First, the law mandates that adults seeking trans health care sign an informed consent form.
Secondly, it also requires a physician to oversee any health care related to transitioning — and it must be in person.
These two rules, violations of which are now crimes, can create massive barriers to care, as many trans patients go to nurse practitioners for care or used telehealth, the AP reported.
Not only that, but the new legislation comes on top of a separate law allowing doctors and pharmacists to refuse to treat transgender patients.
It may not seem like laws such as these would impact a large portion of the population.
After all, about 1.6% of U.S. adults are trans or nonbinary, with the share being higher among adults younger than 30, according to a Pew Research Center survey from last year.
Although the numbers are likely higher due to the fact the data is self-reported, less than half of U.S. adults know someone who is trans, and 20% know someone who is nonbinary, the survey found.
No matter the statistics, an attack on even one person’s rights is an attack on all of our’s, with the potential impact being far more widespread than initially anticipated.
No, these policies are not meant to protect children or make sports more fair.
They are dreaconian policies intended to take away the livelihoods of those deemed different, just as laws have done in regard to race and ethnicity.
In reality, these laws not only hurt openly trans individuals but also the many others who will be shoved further into the closet.
That is a core tenet of modern-day conservatism. And anti-LGBTQ+ policies have been spearheaded by presidential hopefuls such as DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Just like the two men walking the streets of Bristol on Saturday night, Republicans don’t view members of the LGBTQ+ community as equals.
They lifestyle is unnatural, they say; their lifestyle is a sin, they conclude.
Even corporations are caving into the pressure as they navigate the apparently difficult path of either supporting LGBTQ+ rights for profit or appeasing right-wing trolls, as evidenced by Target’s recent debacle.
Unfortunately for the politicians and bigots — or those who are both — public opinion is not in their favor.
In that same Pew Research poll cited earlier, it reported 64% of American adults favor laws protecting the transgender community from all forms of discrimination.
With only 10% of respondents opposing such laws, that mindset is clearly falling by the wayside, with 25% of individuals not having a strong opinion on the subject.
As is common nowadays, policies don’t necessarily reflect the will of the people.
Some will be shot down by judges even when least expected, as was the case when a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump over the weekend ruled Tennessee’s law restricting drag shows as unconstitutional.
As it turns out, even a conservative judge knows when to ease up on government overreach. That’s what the politicians making the laws have always said, after all.
As Americans fill the streets to celebrate Pride Month in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and beyond, however, the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community is far from over.
The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 491 anti-trans bills in state legislatures alone. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of states where any of these have a chance of becoming law are red.
Many of those bills will die. But some will also become law.
Similarly, many bigots will die off. But many will still grow from their ashes and continue to spread hate.
And It’s not just a people’s rights we’re talking about; it’s their lives.
Members of the community are four times more likely to commit suicide, according to the nonprofit Trevor Project, with more than 50% of non-binary and transgender youths considered suicide.
Even in more progressive states, there are “alarmingly high rates of suicide attempts, depression and anxiety,” the organization found.
Republican or Democrat, people need to make a decision: Do you care about the people who you serve?
If not, every bit of suffering members of the LGBTQ+ community feel and the deaths that may follow should not come as a surprise.