When our queer ancestors gathered on the streets of New York to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 1970, I wonder whether they imagined that many of the challenges ahead of them would one day be overcome?
As homosexuals, we were an aberration to be shunned. ‘Gay’ was a relatively new term that encompassed anybody who did not identify as cis or straight. We were relegated to the shadows of the night and certainly not welcome to be out and proud in broad daylight.
As they took to the streets en masse on that first Stonewall anniversary for a protest that would eventually come to be known as Pride, it must have been inconceivable to them that one day laws would protect our jobs, that marriage or civil partnerships would be possible, gay relationships would frequently be depicted on screen, or that a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination would be a gay man.
Even if one of them did imagine these things transpiring, I am fairly certain that even in their wildest predictions not one of them would have ever envisioned how, five decades later, a virus that didn’t discriminate against sexuality, race or gender would keep us indoors and away from gathering in the streets to celebrate our love.
But facts are facts, my beloved queers, and here we are, holed up inside, united by the technology that has changed the world for LGBTQ people. The past two decades of technological evolution have given those who were once isolated and alone the opportunity to reach out, whether they are a young child in a small village in Wales or a closeted lesbian in Nigeria.
Trying to find the rainbow in the grey, I wonder if it’s a tad poetic that it’s through an online window that we now gather to cheer our identity on during the 50th anniversary of Pride. (I suppose the other option would be to not celebrate at all, and that is not an option.)
It’s right that we reflect on how, for too many LGBTQ people around the world, their only experience of an open celebration of queerness is a virtual one, because their circumstances don’t allow them to be free and open in public.
Yet, as we go to press on this issue, the Black Lives Matter protests are gathering momentum, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to protest against police aggression and a long history of oppression of a community that stretches back hundreds of years.
In the crowds were thousands of LGBTQ black people taking a stand against the many intersectional prejudices they face. Alongside them was a sea of non-black faces, in a beautiful show of solidarity.
The first Stonewall was a riot by a community united in its gender and sexual diversity. LGBTQ people fought back against social oppression and the bullying tactics of corrupt cops. Go back to the mid-90s and it wasn’t uncommon for British police to harass queer people for holding hands on Britain’s streets.
Today, the ongoing murders of black trans women and the relentless attacks on the wider trans community by high-profile public figures who believe that someone else’s identity is available for debate is exactly why we are not done fighting yet.
Whether we speak out on the street or from home online, whatever your race, gender or sexuality – and despite COVID-19 – this Pride we are still here and united as one.
- Cliff Joannou, Editor-in-Chief