Pride Month and Democracy

06.27.2023 Public Wise

Our nation and Pride Month share an origin story: a visceral rejection of those who would control our ability to live freely. As we close out Pride Month and move into Independence Day weekend, we as queer people owe it to ourselves to acknowledge the interconnected nature of the struggles for queer liberation and an authentic, just, multi-racial democracy for all. Both rely on a shared belief that maintaining the status quo is no excuse for denying people the right to fully participate and be recognized in society, and as such they share a common enemy: the forces of regression, of bigotry, of fondness for the 1950s and its homogenous, exclusive, violent power structure.

It is no accident that the far-right wing of American politics has latched onto anti-trans laws at the same moment they are losing the battle for public opinion on voting rights, abortion care, and the alarming ease of access to guns for everyday citizens. We know the vast majority of Americans believe overturning Roe was a mistake 1, stricter gun laws save lives 2 and voting is a fundamental right that should not be restricted in any way 3. Rather than facing the facts, they double down on their white Christian nationalism and the spasms of election denialism gripping one half of our political establishment. Instead, they turn to their platforms to spout outrageous rhetoric: be terrified your children might not dress or think or love or identify the way you do.

And as was true at Stonewall in 1969, the people who stand to absorb the greatest harm are shouldering the burden of advancing liberty for all of us. The first sign something different was happening at the Stonewall Uprising? Someone in the crowd began to sing the civil rights hymn “We Shall Overcome.” The first physical resistance offered to violently homophobic police officers? Black lesbians, drag queens of color – people with the smallest margin of error for surviving such an encounter. Now it is Black women, the core and most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party, showing up and voting like all our lives depend on it. It’s communities of color and young people demanding attention be paid to the literally life threatening degradation of our planet. It is undocumented youth insisting we not look away from the inhumanity of denying asylees their indisputable legal and moral right to safety and shelter. It is trans kids testifying in state legislative houses about how scared they are to be themselves at school, for fear of what will happen to them and their entire families.

These are all, fundamentally, issues of democracy, and it comes down to a simple question: can we save our democracy? If most Americans believe queer people should be able to live safely and freely; believe voting is a sacred right guaranteed to all and that more voting is better than less; believe the choice to carry a pregnancy is one that can only be made by the pregnant person – then in a real democracy, our animating principle should be that these are naturally the proper laws of our land.

We owe it to our fellow citizens and our ancestors to treat the viability of our democracy as seriously as we treat the most immediate threat to our personal safety. We owe it to ourselves as queer people to take our capacity for bravery seriously: to organize, to vote, to sign our friends and family up to vote, to have difficult conversations with the loved ones we left back home in our small towns about what democracy is and means and who can be trusted with something so increasingly fragile. We owe it to ourselves to commit, finally, to understanding democracy as a queer liberation issue, and to fight for it as fiercely as we have ever fought for anything.